CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

MA-XRF Scanning: the bigger picture

Symposium: 26 February 2015

The university of Antwerp organizes a meeting on the development and use of the MA-XRF scanner. This technology is frequently used in technical art historical research and has yielded interesting results on paintings by Flemish primitives.

Symposium and inauguration
The meeting on 26 February is in combination with the inauguration of a new Chair for advanced imaging techniques at the university. For more information on the program of the inauguration, which will be held at the Rubenianum on Friday 27 February see the website of the event (in Dutch).

Information from the organizers, 3 February 2015

The technique
Macro X-ray fluorescence scanning (or simply MA-XRF scanning) is a recent analytical imaging technique that allows visualizing the distribution of chemical elements at and below the surface of paintings. Ever since its introduction by the University of Antwerp and TU Delft, this research method has been revealing well kept secrets of iconic paintings with clockwork regularity.

Starting from a synchrotron-based method in 2008, MA-XRF was rapidly translated to a mobile instrument that can be deployed in a museum gallery or conservation studio. In the following years, MA-XRF scanning attracted the attention of many art historical scholars and conservators as it appeared to offer a new avenue for the non-invasive study of painting methods and identification of materials. The added value with respect to traditional imaging techniques (such as X-ray radiography or Infrared reflectography) and existing analytical techniques lies in the fact that compositional data can be collected from the entire paint surface and presented in a visual manner that can be further interpreted and studied by non-XRF experts involved.

The meeting
Recently, the exponential development of the technique has reached another milestone: the introduction of a dedicated commercial instrument (the Bruker M6). In combination with the inauguration of a new Chair for imaging techniques at the University of Antwerp, this fact gave momentum to bring together the people who gained hands on experience with MA-XRF scanning during the previous ‘pioneering years’. The aim of this meeting is dual: (a) summarizing all current applications (types of objects and questions that can be addressed) and (b) discussing pending problems and limitations related to the technique, the software and the instruments active in the field. We anticipate that from this discussion the main topics for future research will crystallize out, i.e. how can set-ups or software be improved or adapted and which topics/applications can benefit from a more systematic approach.

The Program
Morning – chairman Geert Van der Snickt
09h00: Registration and welcome speech

09h30: Joris Dik (TU Delft, NL): The past and future of MA-XRF scanning

10h00: Michael Haschke (Bruker Nano, Berlin, D): producing large scale elemental maps with the M6

10h30 – Coffee

11h00: Mathias Alfeld (DESY, Hamburg, D): novel strategies for processing mega-pixel XRF data
11h30: John Delaney (National Gallery Washington, USA): Hyperspectral imaging vs XRF-imaging

12h00: Karen Trentelman (Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles, USA): MA-XRF scanning in a museum environment: enhancing discovery, discussion and dissemination

12h30 – Lunch

Afternoon – chairman Koen Janssens
: Petria Noble (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, NL): MA-XRF scanning on late Rembrandt, an overview

14h30: Francesca Casadio (The Art institute Chicago, USA): MA-XRF scanning of works on paper by Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso

15h00 – Coffee

15h30: Paola Ricciardi (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK): MA-XRF mapping of illuminated manuscripts: potentialities and challenges

16h00: Joost Caen (University of Antwerp, B): Elemental mapping of stained-glass windows

16h30: round table discussion

Participation is free, but please register before 20th February using the link on the website of the event.