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In a collaboration of scientists and conservators, Dr Matija Strlic (UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage) has helped develop a new method to diagnose painting canvases from the back, without disturbing a single fibre. The aim is to see if the canvas can withstand the stress of handling and travel.
Using the method - which is similar to the way doctors measure blood sugar without the need for needles – scientists examined 12 paintings by the surrealist painter Salvador Dalí.
They assessed the ‘health’ of the canvases, which are known to degrade with time due to acidity and environmental conditions. Once a canvas is brittle, expensive conservation is required.
While all 12 were shown to be in a good condition and can continue to be enjoyed safely, there was evidence of the early canvases approaching the threshold for safe travel. Interestingly, it was also shown that these same canvases were made of inexpensive low-quality cotton, used by the young Dalí.
Image: Self-Portrait Splitting into Three, 1926 © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí, VEGAP, 2013
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