Rembrandt's An Old Man in Military Costume: Combining hyperspectral and MA-XRF imaging to understand how two paintings were painted on a single panel

Douglas MacLennan, Karen Trentelman*, Yvonne Szafran, Anne T. Woollett, John K. Delaney, Koen Janssens, Joris Dik

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)
    19 Downloads (Pure)

    Abstract

    Over the past several decades the painting An Old Man in Military Costume by Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn (ca. 1630–31; J. Paul Getty Museum, 78.PB.246) has been the subject of a number of investigations carried out in order to better visualize a second painting beneath the surface figure. The underlying image–the head and shoulders of a man wearing a cloak–is oriented 180 degrees from the upper image and appears to be fairly complete. Scanning macro x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy reveals the face is painted with lead white and a mercury-containing pigment (likely vermilion), and the cloak is painted with a copper-containing pigment. Following the revelation and digital color reconstruction of the underlying figure, a number of questions still remained. Here, through the use of infrared reflectance imaging spectroscopy (i.e., hyperspectral imaging) and macro-XRF imaging spectroscopy, together with cross-sections taken from targeted areas, the sequence of painting in both compositions was explored. Of particular interest was the discovery of evidence of multiple attempts to situate the lower figure, and the subsequent application of a blocking-out layer over the lower figure before the artist rotated the panel and executed the upper figure. In addition, examination of the placement of the two images on the panel adds to our understanding of the subtle complexities of Rembrandt's working process.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)54-68
    JournalJournal of the American Institute for Conservation
    Volume58
    Issue number1-2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Keywords

    • Early Rembrandt
    • infrared reflectance imaging spectroscopy
    • re-use of painting supports
    • X-ray fluorescence imaging spectroscopy

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