Counting Vermeer


2.7 Concluding remarks

Investigation of paintings with X-radiography is essential in establishing the true condition of a painting. It also makes information related to the materials and structure of a painting available that cannot be seen with the naked eye, such as changes made by the painter during the painting process, and can give insights into the painting support, ground layers, paint layers, paint layer build-up and order of painting. The scanning of X-radiographic films at high resolution also allows for the identification of micro-features in the paint associated with past interventions and ageing of the paint layers.

By careful comparison with the actual paintings, the study of X-radiographs can help distinguish features that can be associated with the painting technique of a particular artist, different hands, and in some cases the detection of fakes. For paintings by Vermeer, X-radiographs have been/are an important tool and provide exceptional insight into his characteristic manner of revising details. The numerous changes, as made visible in the X-radiographs, document Vermeer’s creative process and reveal how his compositions developed.1 The complete set of X-rays of Vermeer paintings will be of great value for further comparative studies of Vermeer’s painting technique. In the past the number of X-radiographs was too small for any definitive categorization.


1 See also M. Gifford and L. Glinsman in A. Waiboer et al., Vermeer and the Masters of Genre Painting: Inspiration and Rivalry, exh. cat. Paris (Louvre)/Dublin (National Gallery of Ireland)/Washington, D.C. (National Gallery of Art), 2017, p. 77.

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