Lauren Bradley: Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
At her summer internship at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Lauren Bradley, UD master's student in art conservation, uses X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to study the pigments in a 15th-century Italian painting depicting Helen of Troy.


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11:13 a.m., July 28, 2010----This summer I am working with three very large, early Italian panel paintings at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. The Walters has one of the largest collections of Italian paintings in the United States including works by Giovanni di Paolo, Veronese, Guido Reni and Tiepolo.

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The paintings depict stories from Greek mythology about Helen of Troy and have been attributed to the school of Vivarini, a 15th-century Venetian master. The paintings are unique for the 15th century because they are secular in subject matter and would have hung in a domestic rather than a religious setting.

The panels have been in storage at the Walters since the 1970s and need conservation treatment before they can go back on display. The treatment will be no small task as each of the panels is at least 5 feet high and 8 feet long!

As part of the conservation documentation required before treatment begins, I am researching the painting materials and techniques used to create the compositions. This information will help us better understand the paint layers and potential solubility of the different materials during cleaning.

So far, I have found evidence of underdrawings in the figures' faces and hair using infrared light, and orthogonal incision lines that were used to establish a single vanishing point at the center of one panel. I am also using X-ray fluorescence (XRF) to study the pigments and to help distinguish original material from later restoration material.