Hidden dalliance revealed | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 05, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 05, 2011

Artist's Regret

Hidden dalliance revealed

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Experimenting with a vivacious blonde, only to settle instead on a somber brunette, is an old, clichéd storyline in fact, it's at least 200 years old. A new analysis of a 19th century painting reveals that the artist first depicted a blonde with purple ribbons in her hair, before painting the canvas over with a sedate, unadorned brunette.
Altering the original version of a painting, a practice known as pentimenti from the Italian pentirsi, to repent, is not uncommon, said Matthias Alfeld, who presented his finding March 29 at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. This particular instance of “the artist's regret” was revealed by a technique known as scanning macro-X-ray fluorescence at DESY, the German accelerator laboratory in Hamburg. Stimulated by an X-ray beam, chemical elements in the painting fluoresce, revealing hidden pigments without damaging the artwork.
The analysis revealed that the painting now known as “Pauline in a white dress” emerged after substantial changes. The presence of cobalt indicated that blue pigment was used in the woman's purple hair ribbons, and the orange-red pigment vermilion was indicated by mercury. The presence and distribution of antimony, which is associated with the pigment Naples yellow, and lead, indicating white paint, suggest that the woman initially had blond curls that tumbled loosely over her shoulders, contrasting sharply with the tidy brown pulled-back hair of the visible work.

Source: Science News.

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