Airport Scanner Technology Reveals Ancient Roman Fresco Beneath Louvre Wall Painting

Mon, 06/03/2013 - 06:17

Imaging technology similar to that used in airport security scanners has detected the face of an Ancient Roman man hidden below the surface of a wall painting in Paris’ Louvre museum. The discovery was announced by the American Chemical Society, which is world’s largest scientific society, at its national meeting in New Orleans. Doctor J. Bianca Jackson reported on the research, saying: “Terahertz technology has been in use for some time, especially in quality control in the pharmaceutical industry to assure the integrity of pills and capsules, in biomedical imaging and even in homeland security with those whole-body scanners that see beneath clothing at airport security check points, but its use in examining artefacts and artworks is relatively new.” Scientists turned to terahertz technology when suspicions surfaced that a hidden image might lie beneath the brushstrokes of a 19th-century fresco, ‘Trois hommes armés de lances’ (Three Men Armed With Lances), in the Louvre’s Campana collection. Giampietro Campana was an Italian art collector who assembled one of the 19th century’s greatest collections of Greek and Roman sculpture and antiquities. When he acquired a work of art, he sometimes restored damaged parts or reworked the original. Art historians believe that Campana painted ‘Trois hommes armés de lances’ after the fresco was removed from its original wall in Italy and entered his collection. Jackson and her colleagues examined ‘Trois hommes armés de lances’ using terahertz technology. The process is slow, requiring a few hours to analyse a section the size of a sheet of paper. She said: “We were amazed, and we were delighted. We could not believe our eyes as the image materialised on the screen. Underneath the top painting of the folds of a man’s tunic, we saw an eye, a nose and then a mouth appear. We were seeing what likely was part of an Ancient Roman fresco, thousands of years old.” Campana’s painting is valuable and that the terahertz revelations may have added value by showing an authentic Roman fresco lies under it.