Revealing art secrets with science

The secrets of Caravaggio and the Venetian Renaissance (1st half). Storioni's violin in the city: a love story (2nd half)

Guitar - X Ray viewFondazione Bracco

Science for art is a relatively recent discipline which, in just a few decades, has involved most of the experimental sciences in a number and variety of applications for works of art. Chemistry and physics help conserve works of art, but more than this, they also help to understand them better. Diagnostics in particular makes it possible to discover what is hidden under a layer of paint to uncover important evidence for dating, attribution and the technique and creative process of the artist. 

Violin - X Ray viewFondazione Bracco

Technical analysis tools use the entire spectrum of electromagnetic radiation: both radiation visible to the human eye (macro photos, microphones, grazing light photos) and invisible rays (x-rays, infrared and ultraviolet radiation), and chemical and physical methods for pigment analysis.The Bracco Group, a multinational operating in the life sciences sector and world leader in imaging diagnostics, has always been engaged in developing the Italian artistic and cultural heritage. Over the years it has supported important national and international exhibitions with a high cultural and scientific profile, concentrating on diagnostic imaging applied to works of art.

Inside Caravaggio ExhibitionFondazione Bracco

Inside Caravaggio

Milan paid a tribute anew to the great artist with the exhibition "Dentro Caravaggio (Inside Caravaggio)", held at Palazzo Reale from 29 September 2017 to 28 January 2018, and featured 20 masterworks by Caravaggio displayed together for the very first time. The show has been unique because not only it presented to the public works from the leading Italian museums and equally important museums abroad, but also by the fact that Caravaggio's canvases were flanked by their respective X-radiographic images for the first time. The Gruppo Bracco is the exhibition Partner for the new investigative diagnostics carried out.

This enable visitors to follow and discover, through the innovative use of multimedia technologies, the artist's creative process, from the initial idea to the finished work. The aim is to offer a new take on Caravaggio's extraordinary artistic production over the years, through two principal interpretative keys: the diagnostic investigations and new documentary research that have led to a reassessment of the chronology of Caravaggio's early works. This was made possible by the new data yielded by the documents and also the results of the scientific analyses – for years the new frontier of research for art history as well as restoration.  

The exhibition is produced by the Milan City Council – Culture, Palazzo Reale and MondoMostre Skira, in association with the MIBACT. The exhibition was designed by Studio Cerri & Associati.

Good Luck by Caravaggio - Diagnostic analysisFondazione Bracco

The clear preparation, extensively on view, is similar to that of many early works. This type of preparation would later be abandoned in favour of a dark background.
Compared with earlier paintings, the role and type of the incisions appear different and become more functional in describing the figures. The circular incision on the right, made with a compass, refers to the halo of a Madonna in prayer beneath rotated by 90°, perhaps also painted by Caravaggio.

Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian PaintingFondazione Bracco

Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance
of Venetian Painting

The first three decades of the sixteenth century represent, visually and intellectually, the most exciting phase of the Renaissance in Venice – when Giorgione and the young Titian, together with Sebastiano del Piombo, Palma Vecchio, and others, were working alongside the old master Giovanni Bellini. Bracco supported as official sponsor the exhibition “Bellini, Giorgione, Titian and the Renaissance of Venetian Painting” by National Gallery of Art, Washington, an exhibit that celebrates three great masters and explores their relationships with contemporary painters.

The exhibition emphasizes technical examination of these paintings by radiology, besides other sophisticated techniques, using the platforms that Bracco has developed for advanced medical applications

Feast of the Gods by Giovanni Bellini and TizianoFondazione Bracco

Giovanni Bellini and Titian
Feast of the Gods
1514 and 1529, oil on canvas
170.2 x 188 (67 x 74)
National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection
Signed: jovannes bellinus
Venetus / p. MDXIIII

The Feast of the Gods by Giovanni Bellini and TizianoFondazione Bracco

In 1956 John Walker published a composite x – radiograph of the “Feast of the Gods” that revealed its original appearance as finished by Bellini, with figures seated in front of a forest with the tree trunks extending across the entire width of the picture. Walker was thus able to modify Vasari’s claim that Titian completed Bellini’s picture y demonstrating that the younger artist has actually repainted the left side of a finished landscape.

Allegory of Chastity by Lorenzo LottoFondazione Bracco

Lorenzo Lotto
Allegory of Chastity (Maiden’s Dream)
c. 1502 – 1505, oil on panel
42.9 x 33.7 (16 7/8 x 13 ¼)
National Gallery of Art
Samuel H. Kress Collection

Allegory of Chastity by Lorenzo LottoFondazione Bracco

X-ray and infrared examination of the panel has revealed an earlier landscape composition, rotated 180 degrees, with a seated youth asleep with his head propped on his hand in a similar pose. As David Brown hash shown, this pose is an almost exact reflection of the central figure in a comparable subject much beloved in the Renaissance, namely, the dream of Hercules or Hercules and the Crossroads often found on cassone panels, like one attributed to Giacomo Pacchiarotto in the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.

A concert by Giovanni CarianiFondazione Bracco

Giovanni Cariani
c.1518, oil on canvas
92 x 130 (36 ¼ x 51 3/16)
National Gallery of Art, Washington
Bequest of Lore Heinemann
In memory of her husband, Dr. Rudolf J. Heinemann
Washington only

A concert by Giovanni CarianiFondazione Bracco

Cariani’s “Concert”, now in the National Gallery of Art, came into light only in the 1960s, when it was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. Any interpretation of Cariani’s picture must proceed from the fact that it does not represent a vocal ensemble. All three figures, to judge from their individualized features, must be portraits, though the sitters have yet to be identified. Most impressive is the corpulent musician, who bursts on the scene, separating the tutor from his aristocratic young pupil. In his bulk, extravagant hat, and perhaps too-passionate search for inspiration, the musician in the Washington canvas, in common with its realistic style, would seem to be a critique of the elevated type of musical picture Cariani encountered in Venice.

Lorenzo Storioni, small violin, 1793, labelFondazione Bracco

"The sound construction -  Storioni violin 1793". A love story between art, science and music

"The sound construction. Storioni Violin 1793" is a multidisciplinary project highlighted by the close encounter between art, science and music. The initiative, realized thanks to the partnership between Bracco Foundation, the Municipality of Cremona and the Violin Museum, is aimed at purchasing, studying, restoring and displaying of the "Piccolo" violin by Lorenzo Storioni. 

Lorenzo Storioni, small violin, 1793 - Before restorationFondazione Bracco

The "Piccolo" is a small violin, authentic piece in all its parts by the Cremonese violinmaker Lorenzo Storioni (1744-1816), proven by an cartouche of the author. In addition of its important value as an object of study and typical exemplary of the work of Storioni, the instrument is of particular interest because of the author has not been represented until now in Cremona, international center of knowledge with its Museum of the Violin and the Cultural District of Violinmaking.

The 1793 Violino Piccolo by Lorenzo StorioniFondazione Bracco

The violin, which recently reappeared after a long period of neglect, probably abandoned amongst old, forgotten items in the attic of a stately home, is an emblematic and incredibly interesting case study for scholars, restorers and scientists alike. It was built by the renowned Cremonese violinmaker in the late nineteenth century for a child, and therefore still retains many of the original materials assembled over two centuries ago. 

The 1793 Violino Piccolo by Lorenzo Storioni - DetailFondazione Bracco

The project involves studying the history, organology and philology of the instrument, alongside diagnostic work to examine the violin’s materials and construction techniques and finally the restoration of the instrument by renowned violin restorers, before the instrument joins the permanent collection at the Museo del Violino, Cremona, Italy (April 2019).

The 1793 Violino Piccolo by Lorenzo Storioni - AnalysisFondazione Bracco

The 1793 Violino Piccolo by Lorenzo Storioni - The researchers speakFondazione Bracco

X-Ray fluorescence analysis (XRF) performed on the instrument soundboardFondazione Bracco

The 1793 Violino Piccolo by Lorenzo Storioni - DetailFondazione Bracco

The project and the restoration work also provide an extremely valuable learning opportunity for students on the conservation and restoration of musical instruments course, the only one of its type in Italy. This initiative, of extremely high cultural and scientific value, has seen the Foundation working with the Municipality of Cremona and the Museo del Violino to purchase, study, restore and exhibit Lorenzo Storioni’s small violin. 

Grey scale X-Ray radiographies of the front side (left) and of the neck and the upper rib on the bass side (right)Fondazione Bracco

A close connection between art, music and scientific research, collaboration between leading Italian organisations, knowledge sharing at various levels, work with museums, universities and research centres and a highly multidisciplinary approach.

The 1793 Violino Piccolo by Lorenzo Storioni - Diagnostic AnalysisFondazione Bracco

Credits: Story

Thanks to
National Gallery of Art, Washington
MondoMostre Skira
Fondazione Museo del Violino Antonio Stradivari,
Laboratorio Arvedi di Diagnostica, University of Pavia
Comune di Cremona

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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