an unknown man, upside down
The principle that Art–Test uses in proposing a diagnostic campaign on a work for which there is no historical-artistic reference other than family memories or vague information, it is to begin to investigate with a minimum set of analyses that establish a possible post quem term and therefore indicate the period starting from which the artwork was produced.
With this principle we approached the study of “Portrait of a young man“.
After careful observation to draw up a condition report, we were able to establish how the painting had already undergone restoration over the years, including an evident relining. However, the pictorial surface was clouded by a now oxidized paint which made it difficult to read the image. In addition, the presence of cracks on the entire surface and small detachments of the color in limited areas, as well as some areas where retouching was perceptible, declared that the restoration was certainly a thing of the distant past.
For here we proceeded with an inspection with special UV lamps and then with the acquisition of a UV photographic image, a reflectography at 1100nm and finally we subjected the painting to the study of some pictorial materials thanks to an XRF analysis. The first investigations gave us encouraging results, the painting is not a modern fake, and above all they gave us a glimpse of something under the visible surface!
We have thus proposed an in-depth diagnostic campaign. Immediately after the authorization of a “Gold” diagnostic campaign, we began with further investigations in order to better visualize the underlying layers. And here the Scanner infrared reflectography confirmed what we had already glimpsed, but in a less explicit way, with the reflectography performed with a CCD scientific camera using a 1100 nm filter.
Immediately after, we explored this aspect even more with an X-ray investigation.
And so we discovered that the “Portrait of a young man” is actually only “half” of this work. Below we have another portrait, a man, no longer very young, wearing a monocle. To be able to see it well you have to rotate the painting by 180°. The clothes of the two portraits take us to the 19th century. The UV RGB fluorescence showed us not only an inhomogeneity of the paint layer but also some superficial retouching on the face.
Who are those portraited and who is the painter?
Much remains to be discovered about this artwork and our research continues. In addition, the diagnostic campaign carried out so far will be used as a support for the restoration …. follow us in our lab, there could be other surprises!