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The ESRF collaborates in research on Van Gogh's painting


Researchers from the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France have just unveiled a portrait below the painting of a landscape by Vincent van Gogh. The ESRF contributed in this research by analysing some of the pigments in the painting underneath.

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It is well-known that Vincent van Gogh often painted over his older works. Experts estimate that about 30% of his paintings conceal other compositions under them. Using X-ray fluorescence at the Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (Germany), the scientists could reconstruct the concealed painting. Further experiments carried out at the ESRF revealed the presence of the pigments Naples' Yellow (lead antimonate, yellow-brown) and Vermillion (mercury sulphide, red), employed by Van Gogh to paint the portrait.


Dik J. et al, Visualization of a Lost Painting by Vincent van Gogh Using Synchrotron Radiation Based X-ray Fluorescence Elemental Mapping , Anal. Chem. 2008; ASAP Article;  DOI: 10.1021/ac800965g.

Top image: The painting, entitled Grasgrond (Patch of grass), and the portrait below. Credits: DESY.