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X-ray imaging used for painting condition evaluation

At Parma, “The Past” defines much of our work as conservators. We confront history each and every day by caring for artwork, immersing ourselves in research, collaborating with scholars, even duplicating antiquated artistic technique. Yet tools and techniques of conservation go far beyond ochre and egg tempera. In fact, parts of the conservation process can make one feel less like a member of CDI and more like a cast member on CSI.

Case in point: analytics. At the intersection of high art and high-tech, analytics balance the delicate, subjective nature of conservation with a dose of pure science. Services like radiographic and ultraviolet imaging cull technical and historic information from works of art, imparting knowledge to determine the conservation course of action. Further, analytics can solve puzzles of provenance, providing clues vital to authenticity. Because the best possible preservation begins with investigation, Parma offers a full line of analytical services. Below are three devices in-house at Parma Laboratories particularly helpful in mining data behind art’s greatest masterpieces:


X-Ray analysis is the newest addition to Parma Conservation’s arsenal of services and a valuable resource in the examination of canvas and panel paintings. As in medicine, radiography takes a work of art and delves “down to the bone.” The ability to see beneath a painting’s surface allows authenticating elements like structural additions, pentimenti, false craquelure, and even entirely hidden artwork to, quite literally, come to light.

X-Ray analysis is the newest addition to Parma Conservation’s arsenal

X-rays are highly charged eletromagnetic waves that can penetrate the material layers of an artwork.  Because of the differing levels of absorption in the materials, we are able to see distinct structures within the layers, which is useful for identifying hidden damage.



Parma offers not one, but two medical grade microscopes for detailed art analysis. The most recent addition to Parma’s laboratories is a Leica M651 stereo microscope. Complete with micro-optics utilizing visual elements from 20 micrometers to 1 millimeter, the device is, as the Italians say, “The Ultimo.” Along with techie appeal, microscopic analysis locates the tiniest of articles within a painting. For example, formerly indecipherable saponifications (chemical alterations to paint pigment) become clear and visible to the naked eye.

Parma offers not one, but two medical grade microscopes for detailed art analysis

The most recent addition to Parma’s laboratories is a Leica M651 stereo microscope

The fine optics of the Leica M651stereo microscope allow for the precision cleaning, repair, and retouching of the painted surface.


While many associate infrared technology with Hollywood-inspired espionage, these machines equally “spy” covert secrets within artwork. Contrast enhancement identifies hidden contours muted by fading, sharpening them into a likeness perfectly prepped for analysis. Advanced image processing is particularly beneficial to ancient and delicate artworks. Infrared light penetrates the layers of a painting to reveal concealed intricacies without affecting the surface. The painting is analyzed non-invasively and the truth, finally, is out there.

The Infrared Camera in Art Conservation

The Infrared Camera in Art Conservation

Reflected Infrared photograph, utilizing a CCD digital sensor.
With wavelength sensitivity between 850-1000nm, the underdrawing is clearly visible.


All artwork has a narrative and quality analytical services add “exposition”. Whether distinguishing between restoration and original, determining natural or synthetic varnish, or even discovering a portrait beneath a pastoral, analytics recount fascinating back story. With over 30-years experience, the “special agents” at Parma Conservation are ready to tackle any art mystery. Case closed. Technique and Technology of Conservation Analytics

Visit our website at www.parmaconservation.com




Visit Parma Conservation website at www.parmaconservation.com