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Roman fresco found beneath 19th century painting


Employing the same imaging technology used in airports to visually scan passengers going through security, researchers have found an ancient Roman fresco beneath the surface of a 19th century painting in the Louvre.

“No previous imaging technique, including almost half a dozen commonly used to detect hidden images below paintings, forged signatures of artists and other information not visible on the surface has revealed a lost image in this fresco,” Jackson said. “This opens to door to wider use of the technology in the world of art, and we also used the method to study a Russian religious icon and the walls of a mud hut in one of humanity’s first settlements in what was ancient Turkey.”

The technology is a new addition to the palette that art conservators and scientists use to see below the surface and detect changes, including fake signatures and other alterations in a painting. Termed terahertz spectroscopy, it uses beams of electromagnetic radiation that lie between microwaves, like those used in kitchen ovens, and the infrared rays used in TV remote controls. This radiation is relatively weak, does not damage paintings and does not involve exposure to harmful radiation.

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Story: Science Daily | Photo: J. Bianca Jackson, Ph.D. and Dominique Martos-Levif

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