Painting examination

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The graph shows the penetration power of UV, infrared and X-rays in a painting.

The painting examination is a method of art history in which paintings are classified, determined and attributed in terms of style , content, origin, material and state of preservation. It is subdivided into art-historical research methods such as style criticism , form analysis , iconography , iconology, and, since around the beginning of the 19th century, scientific research methods. The scientific investigation methods can be broken down e.g. For example: in physical and chemical investigations, in surface and depth investigations, or, as will be tried here, in point and area investigations. Point examination is the examination of (mostly) extracted material in order to be able to make a statement for a certain point / area. The point tests include: pigment tests, binder tests, Color cross-section studies and image carrier studies. Area investigation is the observation of a painting in the various visible and invisible radiation areas of the electromagnetic spectrum. It can be divided into surface and depth investigations. The surface examination includes the incident light examination, the grazing light examination, the examination with the stereo microscope ( macro examination ), the examination with filtered and unfiltered ultraviolet rays (UV examination), and the examination with the sodium vapor lamp . The in-depth examinations include examination with infrared rays ( infrared photography , infrared reflectography) and examination with X-rays (X-ray examination).


The beginnings of the art-historical investigation of paintings can probably be found with Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574), who is considered the father of art history. It was not until the 19th century that the Italian natural scientist and doctor Giovanni Morelli changed the research on the history of art, which had hitherto been based mainly on source criticism and document research. He did not try to identify the artist by the easily imitable characteristics such as composition and color, but rather by such. B. a hand, an eye, an ear, etc. are painted. In these details he tried to recognize the personal “handwriting” of an artist. He is one of the fathers of style-critical analysis ( style criticism ).

The beginnings of scientific investigation can be found in the early 19th century, when the scholars Jean-Antoine Chaptal (1809) in France and Sir Humphry Davy in England (1815) examined the pigments of Pompeian wall painting. But it wasn't until the 1890s, about eighty years later, that scientific research actually began with the Englishman Arthur Pillans Laurie (1861–1949). Inspired by one of the most famous painters of the Victorian Age , William Holman Hunt , Laurie began to turn to the scientific questions of painting. A chemist by training, he not only dealt with the analysis of binders and pigments, but also with the examination of the painting surface in the macro range (macro examination ). In 1930 he reported on the results of his research to the International Museum Conference in Rome. In a resolution, the importance of macro photos as an aid in attribution ( style criticism ) was recognized. In 1895 Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen discovered that lead paints absorb X-rays, in 1896 W. König x-rayed the first paintings. From 1913 to 1914, the radiologist Dr. Faber systematically explores the possibilities of x-ray examination of paintings. The process of examining paintings in side light (side light examination ) was developed in the 1920s by Fernando Perez, a doctor interested in art. About the examination of paintings with the help of filtered ultraviolet rays (ultraviolet examination) is from 1926 u. a. by R. Robls and FA Bather in first publications, more extensively reported. The first publications on the examination of paintings with the help of infrared rays ( infrared examination ) appeared in the 1930s by RA Lyon, F. Müller-Skjold / H. Schmitt and P. Coremans, the first comprehensive publication in 1956 by Johannes Taubert.


  • Knut Nicolaus: paintings. Investigated - Discovered - Researched. Klinkhardt & Biermann, Braunschweig 1979.
  • Knut Nicolaus: DuMont's picture lexicon to identify paintings. DuMont Buchverlag, Cologne 1982, ISBN 3-7701-1243-1 .
  • Wolf Stadler u. a .: Lexicon of Art. Painting, architecture, sculpture. Volume 5, Karl Müller Verlag, Erlangen 1994, pp. 36-37.
  • Mauro Matteini, Arcangelo Moles: Scientific investigation methods in restoration. Callwey, Munich 1990, ISBN 3-7667-0986-0 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Arthur Pillan's Laurie: The Pigments and the Mediums of the Old Masters . London 1914.
  2. ^ A. Faber: Oil painting in X-ray light . In: Museum Studies . tape 10 , no. 3 , 1914, pp. 246-253 .
  3. M. Hours: A la découverte de la peinture par de méthodes physiques . Paris 1957.
  4. A. Eibner: Light effect on painters colors. VII. Luminescence research in the service of image science and painting technology. In: Chemiker-Zeitung . tape 55 , 1931, pp. 301-307 .
  5. ^ FA Bather: Ultraviolet rays, an aid to museum work . In: The Museums Journal . tape 28 , 1928, pp. 189-193 .
  6. ^ RA Lyon: Infra-red Radiations Aid Examination of Paintings. In: Technical Studies in the Field of Fine Arts . tape 2 , 1934, p. 203-212 .
  7. F. Müller-Skjold / H. Schmitt: On the application of infrared photography in the painting technique . In: Journal for applied chemistry (Berlin) . tape 49 , 1936, pp. 637-640 .
  8. ^ P. Coremans: Le Rayons Infra-Rouge . In: Bulletin de l'Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique . Brussels 1938, p. 87-91 .
  9. Johannes Taubert: For the scientific evaluation of scientific painting studies (Diss. Msch. Ms.) . Marburg 1956.