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Terahertz pulsed imaging reveals the stratigraphy of a seventeenth-century oil painting

Jun 19, 2018

Locquet, A., J. Dong, M. Melis, and D. S. Citrin. “Terahertz pulsed imaging reveals the stratigraphy of a seventeenth-century oil painting.” In Unconventional Optical Imaging, vol. 10677, p. 106771Z. International Society for Optics and Photonics, 2018.
Terahertz pulsed imaging has attracted considerable interest for revealing the stratigraphy and hidden features of art paintings. The reconstruction of the stratigraphy is based on the precise extraction of THz echo parameters from the reflected signals. Several historical panel paintings and wall paintings have been well studied by THz reflective imaging, in which the detailed stratigraphy has been successfully revealed. To our knowledge, however, the stratigraphy of oil paintings has not been clearly uncovered by THz imaging, since the paint layers in an oil painting on canvas, especially for the 16th and 17th century art works, are usually very thin (~10 μm) in the THz regime. Therefore, in order to improve the performance of THz imaging, advanced signal-processing techniques with higher depth-resolution are still needed. In this study, THz reflective imaging is employed to reveal for the first time the detailed stratigraphy of a 17th century Italian oil painting on canvas. The paint layers on the supporting canvas are very thin in the THz regime, as the THz echoes corresponding to the stratigraphy totally overlap in the first cycle of the reflected THz signal. THz sparse deconvolution based on an iterative shrinkage algorithm is utilized to resolve the overlapping echoes. Based on the deconvolved signals, the detailed stratigraphy of this oil painting on canvas, including the varnish, pictorial, underdrawing, and ground layers, is successfully revealed. The THz C- and B-scans based on the THz deconvolved signals also enable us to reveal the features of each layer. Our results thus enhance the capability of terahertz imaging to perform detailed analysis and diagnostics of historical oil paintings on canvas with foreseen applications for the study of the artist’s technique and for authentication.