More than Meets the Eye

Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art

23 September – 20 December 2015

£2.50 with National Art Pass (standard entry £5)

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Presenting the findings of a group of specialist art historians, restorers and scientists who have examined key works from the Estorick's collection.

The project saw works by Giorgio de Chirico, Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, Carlo Carrà and Ardengo Soffici put through rigorous investigation using the most up-to-date methods in art analysis. As a result, the researchers were able to uncover previously unknown features of many of the most famous paintings in the modern Italian collection.

By looking into the supports and preparatory layers the team could reconstruct the history of the creation, purchase and exhibition of the masterpieces. They used a combination of imaging techniques, including spectroscopic analysis, multispectral high-resolution photography, large-format X-ray imaging, multispectral infrared reflectography and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM). In one case a C-14 (carbon dating) investigation was used to ascertain the date of organic material.

The display presents the paintings – in some cases removed from their frames – alongside backlit X-ray plates and high resolution photographs of the works, allowing them to be seen as if from under a microscope.

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One of the biggest revelations of the project was the discovery of an entirely different work underneath Balla’s 1912 masterpiece The Hand of the Violinist. Scans revealed a view of Düsseldorf that is part of a series of cityscapes created by the artist at this time, but was previously only known about from photographic documentation.

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