The conservation science research group recently took delivery of a scanning micro-X-Ray fluorescence (XRF) instrument (the Bruker M6 Jetstream XRF) that determines the chemical elements in and beneath the surfaces of paintings and other objects.
Read more about the instrument here.
This is an exciting new approach to the chemical analysis of works of art, and it is only the third instrument of its type in America (the Getty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art being the other two). Armed with the chemical information from the M6 XRF it is possible to deduce the pigments that the artist used. Also because the instrument can measure beneath the surface it is possible to see hidden images, for example earlier compositions that have been painted over (canvases were expensive and were often re-used).
The first image on an important piece of work is shown below. It is a still life composition Still Life with Apples, Pears and Pomegranates by Gustave Courbet from the Dallas of Museum of Art collection and it was brought to the university for analysis by Nicole Myers and Laura Hartman.
David S. McPhail
Distinguished Chair of Conservation Science, The Edith O’Donnell Institute of Art History