Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Imaging web site

Imaging web site

From: Ron Spronk <spronk>
Date: Monday, April 13, 1998
The Harvard University Art Museums is pleased to announce that
visitors to our web site can now see how digital imaging techniques
and technical examinations are used to study paintings. The
information provided on the site was first introduced to the public
through a unique and highly  interactive computer display installed
in the Fogg Art Museum last spring as part of the ongoing exhibition
Investigating the Renaissance. "The award-winning display has been
popular with our visitors," said James Cuno, Elizabeth and John
Moors Cabot Director. "We are very excited that the valuable
information provided in the display is now accessible to students,
scholars and the general public without having to physically visit
the museum." Funds for the project were provided by the Getty Grant

The original computer display, created by Ron Spronk, Research
Associate for Technical Studies at the museum's Straus Center for
Conservation, and Robin Marlowe, programming specialist who designed
the user interface, received the Silver Award at the INVISION
Festival this past November in San Francisco.

The new site (<URL:>)
addresses a variety of material aspects of three Early Netherlandish
paintings using digital imaging technology. The featured works are
The Virgin and Child from the workshop of Dirck Bouts, The Portrait
of a Man by the Master of the 1540s, and The Last Judgment by Jan

Visitors can examine and compare the artists' painting techniques by
viewing details of each painting. The site shows a sequence of
images documenting the recent cleaning of The Virgin and Child.
Methods of technical examination such as X-radiography and infrared
reflectography  are described and related images of the three
paintings are used to illustrate the importance of these methods to
conservators and art historians. Through an innovative use of
imaging software, infrared reflectograms, X-radiographs, and
ultraviolet photographs are superimposed with the visible light
images within a single image. The layers can be viewed sequentially
or simultaneously to reveal, for example, relationships between the
initial sketch or underdrawing, the finished work and compositional
changes within the paint layers. Visitors to the site can themselves
manipulate these layered images to look beneath the surface of a

According to Henry Lie, director of the Straus Center, "In addition
to making our examination of documents fun to use, these virtual
tours through the layers of a painting offer a faster and inherently
more detailed means of comparing different types of information. We
expect this technique will eventually become routine in studying and
documenting the complexities of important paintings." According to
art historian Ron Spronk, "being able to study the correlation of a
painting's surface with its underdrawing and underpainting in high
magnification on your own computer screen is a dream for the art
historian interested in examining actual works of art. We will, of
course, never be able to bridge the historical distance between us
and the painters whose works we study, but it is fascinating to be
granted a peek over their shoulders."

Ron Spronk
Research Associate for Technical Studies
Straus Center for Conservation
Harvard University Art Museums
Fax: 617-495-9936

                  Conservation DistList Instance 11:83
                  Distributed: Tuesday, April 14, 1998
                       Message Id: cdl-11-83-008
Received on Monday, 13 April, 1998

[Search all CoOL documents]

URL: http://