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Opt Express. 2009 Mar 2;17(5):3407-16.

TeraHertz imaging of hidden paint layers on canvas.

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  • 1Faculty of Applied Physics, Department of Imaging Science and Technology, Delft University of Technology Lorentzweg 1, 2628 CJ Delft, The Netherlands.


We show terahertz reflection images of hidden paint layers in a painting on canvas and compare the results with X-ray Radiography and In-frared Reflectography. Our terahertz measurements show strong reflections from both the canvas/paint interface and from the raw umber/lead white interface, indicating sufficient refractive-index contrast. Our results show that X-rays cannot be used to image through the lead white pigment which effectively blocks the X-rays. Although Infrared Reflectography is capable of vaguely observing the hidden paint strokes from the canvas side, we show that only terahertz imaging is capable of providing information on the thickness of the hidden paint layers. Terahertz imaging is thus shown to be a powerful imaging method for art historians, conservators and conservation scientists.

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