Look closer at art & pigments

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Art contains many secrets, even within the pigments themselves. By examining the pigments in an artwork, we can answer questions like: What is the history of this artwork? How has it been repaired? Is it an original or a fake? How did the artist create this piece of art?

Explore these pages to discover how various scientific techniques are used to analyze works of art.

Visible light & beyond

Find Raphael’s giornata in his 1520 fresco in Chapel of Saint Severo. Understand brushwork technique in Van Gogh’s Mademoiselle Gachet au Jardin. Learn about multispectral imaging.

Ultraviolet light

Find secret details with back light in a Renaissance Adoration of the Magi fresco. Investigate a painter’s practice with ultraviolet. Discern the original parts from replacement parts in old marble statues.

Infrared light

Use a modified digital camera to read erased Dead Sea Scrolls. Search for proof of authenticity with infrared reflectography.

X-ray light

Hunt for hidden paintings with X-rays. Transform a jug that appears intact into a bag of shards with the help of an X-ray.


Examine a tiny grain of a Claude Monet’s painting and understand his Impressionist technique. Identify pigments layers in a heavily reworked Degas painting.


Explore pigment identification with Raman spectroscopy. Find out what is actually happening in the degradation process of an 800 year old manuscript. Dig into the use of precious pigments in a XVth century Milanese manuscript. Explore the elemental composition of a Nepalese manuscript illumination of a celestial Buddha.

3D Modeling

Create a virtual visit of the Ekain cave painting. Study and document Renoir’s brush work in the Femme Nue Dans une Paysage. Be a digital archaeologist with affordable and fast 3D scanners.


Learn how pottery forgers can fool a Thermoluminescence test. Postdate a portrait of Cranack the Elder through a Dendrochronology examination. Date carbon black in cave paintings.


Uncover a mummy’s secret truths without even opening the case.