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Proceedings Paper

X-ray image analysis of Lorenzo Lotto's Husband and wife
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Paper Abstract

Underdrawings and pentimenti reveal intermediate states of a painting and thus may shed light on the working methods of some artists. It has been claimed that Lorenzo Lotto used optical projections during the execution of Husband and wife (1543) and, recently, that underdrawings in that work might reveal evidence of tracing of optical projections. We analyze x-ray images of this painting-captured under careful, museum-laboratory conditions and enhanced through digital image processing-with special attention to the possibility of evidence of the use of optical projections in the central passage of the depicted carpet. We also study the work in situ and in high-resolution macro optical images of the central portion of the carpet pattern. These photographs reveal that the top portion of the keyhole pattern is not "blurry, like an out-of-focus image," but instead was merely executed in a somewhat broader brush than was neighboring passages. Furthermore, x-ray, infra-red and visible light inspection show that the white portions and black contours were executed atop a broad layer of dark red and reveal no record of an optical projection would have been present when Lotto executed the visible portion. As such, an evidence of putative underdrawings in this region has no bearing on the optical projection claim. There is no evidence of tracing marks-in charcoal or in any medium-in the top, visible portion of this passage either. As such, this visual, infra-red and x-ray evidence does not support the claim that this painting was executed under optical projections. We also discuss the difficulties with the projection theory with special reference to Lotto's preparatory drawing in the Rijksmuseum-specifically the need for a needlessly complex optical system (two lenses rather than one). We also review briefly contemporary textual evidence in early 16th-century Venice that has been used to support the optical projection claim for Lotto and conclude that it also fails to support the projection claim for this painting.

Paper Details

Date Published: 10 March 2011
PDF: 10 pages
Proc. SPIE 7869, Computer Vision and Image Analysis of Art II, 78690L (10 March 2011);
Show Author Affiliations
David G. Stork, Ricoh Innovations, Inc. (United States)
Alexander J. Kossolapov, State Hermitage Museum (Russian Federation)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7869:
Computer Vision and Image Analysis of Art II
David G. Stork; Jim Coddington; Anna Bentkowska-Kafel, Editor(s)

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