The use of X-ray analysis is changing the face of art, and there can be no better example than the recent discovery that a painting by Francisco Goya
hanging in the Rijksmuseum
originally had a different subject. The Portrait of Don Ramón Satué
, which shows a casual and rather dashing Spanish judge, apparently covered the seated portrait of a high-ranking member of the French military -- possibly the brother of Napoleon Bonaparte
The incredible discovery was made using Scanning Macro X-ray Fluorescence Spectrometry
. This technique fires high-energy x-rays at the painting, which energizes the atoms causing them to release their own x-rays. By observing and analyzing this information, researchers are able to develop a color map of what lies beneath the top layer of paint. The resulting map, above and on the right, shows remarkable detail about what was originally on the canvas.
However, it's still something of a mystery as to who was on the canvas prior to Satué.