Femtosecond pump-probe microscopy generates virtual cross-sections in historic artwork.


Journal Article

The layering structure of a painting contains a wealth of information about the artist's choice of materials and working methods, but currently, no 3D noninvasive method exists to replace the taking of small paint samples in the study of the stratigraphy. Here, we adapt femtosecond pump-probe imaging, previously shown in tissue, to the case of the color palette in paintings, where chromophores have much greater variety. We show that combining the contrasts of multispectral and multidelay pump-probe spectroscopy permits nondestructive 3D imaging of paintings with molecular and structural contrast, even for pigments with linear absorption spectra that are broad and relatively featureless. We show virtual cross-sectioning capabilities in mockup paintings, with pigment separation and nondestructive imaging on an intact 14th century painting (The crucifixion by Puccio Capanna). Our approach makes it possible to extract microscopic information for a broad range of applications to cultural heritage.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Villafana, TE; Brown, WP; Delaney, JK; Palmer, M; Warren, WS; Fischer, MC

Published Date

  • February 2014

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 111 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 1708 - 1713

PubMed ID

  • 24449855

Pubmed Central ID

  • 24449855

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1091-6490

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0027-8424

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1073/pnas.1317230111


  • eng