Interpreting technical evidence from spectral imaging of paintings by Édouard Manet in the Courtauld Gallery

Silvia Rita Amato*, Aviva Burnstock, Maureen Cross, Koen Janssens, Francesca Rosi, Laura Cartechini, Raffaella Fontana, Alice Dal Fovo, Marco Paolantoni, Chiara Grazia, Aldo Romani, Anne Michelin, Christine Andraud, Aurélie Tournié, Joris Dik

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    9 Citations (Scopus)


    The paintings by Édouard Manet in The Courtauld Gallery Déjeuner sur l'herbe (1863-68), Marguerite de Conflans en Toilette de Bal (1870-1880), Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil (1874), and A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882) were investigated for the first time using a range of non-invasive in situ analyses. The aims of the study were to investigate the painting techniques and materials used for this group of works and to critically evaluate the technical evidence derived from the integrated use of imaging techniques and portable spectroscopic methods in this context. The paintings were investigated by means of macro X-ray fluorescence (MA-XRF), reflection spectral imaging, portable UV-Vis-NIR spectroscopy, portable Raman spectroscopy, and reflection FTIR. MA-XRF and reflection spectral imaging allowed visualising elements in the compositions that were not visible using traditional methods of technical study. For example, MA-XRF analysis of Déjeuner sur l'herbe revealed elements of the development of the composition that provided new evidence to consider its relationship to other versions of the composition. The study also highlighted questions about the interpretation of elemental distribution maps and spectral images that did not correspond to the reworking visible in X-radiographs. For example, in A Bar at the Folies-Bergère Manet made numerous changes during painting, which were not clearly visualised with any of the techniques used. The research has wider implications for the study of Impressionist paintings, as the results will support technical studies of works by other artists of the period who used similar materials and painting methods.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)282-292
    JournalX-Ray Spectrometry
    Volume48 (2019)
    Issue number4 (Special Issue)
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


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