Dendrochronology via CT Scanning

August 30 2021

Image of Dendrochronology via CT Scanning

Picture: Rijksmuseum & PLoS ONE

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

For those of you who like the more technical side of art historical research, the Science Journal PLoS ONE have published a fascinating article (free to read online) on the use CT scans to date wooden panels. Dendrochronology uses tree rings, compared against vast databases of historic examples, to date wooden panels. This piece combines the research of several scholars headed up by the Department for History of Art at the University of Amsterdam.

Essentially, the paper examines how CT scanners can be used to gather non-invasive information on the age of panels. This is particularly useful when old paintings have been stuck onto other panels in later centuries, often causing all sorts of problems for those wishing to examine such complex structures. In particular, the article examines a Rijksmuseum painting of Cadmus sowing dragon's teeth by Rubens. It seems that Rubens had painted onto a panel made of tropical wood which was later backed by an oak panel, perhaps with 'deceiving intentions' to mask the rarity of the original support.

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