For hundreds of years the public has only seen the surface of famous masterpieces by artists such as Van Gogh and Rembrandt; as well as medieval religious treasures such as The Norfolk Triptych. Now, through a melding of innovative scientific techniques and art connoisseurship, completely different paintings and important clues about the artists themselves are being uncovered one layer at a time by members of Holland’s Rembrandt Research Institute and scientists from the University of Delft.
Non-invasive technology such as x-ray fluorescence and 3D imaging can reveal these “worlds within a world” of art. Researchers can calculate how and when an artist first began working on their composition by tracing fingerprints, brushstrokes and analyzing different layers of paint pigments. These elements, once fully uncovered, sometimes reveal completely different works of art underneath the surface that were abandoned by these great artists and painted over. To help answer the question of why their works were abandoned, Out of the Shadows focuses on a group of scholars, the renowned Dr. Ernst Van De Wetering and Joris Dik who have recently been able to digitally restore lost images under existing masterpeices. The group’s attention is drawn to two paintings, in particular, that were once dismissed as being mere copies of Rembrandt and which have recently been attributed as authentic.
Out of the Shadows explores just how closely science allows art historians to enter an artist’s psyche. The question of why an artist would choose to paint over their own masterpiece is explored in this fascinating documentary that ultimately rewrites the foundations of art history.