Scientific Results

Unveiling the Invisible in Uffizi Gallery’s Drawing 8P by
Leonardo with Non-Invasive Optical Techniques

Year: 2021

Authors: Dal Fovo A., Striova J., Pampaloni E., Fontana R.

Autors Affiliation: INO-CNR

Abstract: Until recently, the study of drawings by old masters has been confined to the art history
conservation field. More specifically, scientific investigations of Leonardo’s drawings are still very
few, possibly due to the latter’s extreme fragility and artistic value. However, analytical data are
crucial to develop a solid knowledge base of the drawing materials and techniques used by artists
in the past. In this work, we report on the application of non-invasive optical techniques on a doublesided
drawing by Leonardo belonging to the Uffizi Gallery (8P). We used multispectral
reflectography in the visible (Vis) and near-infrared (NIR) regions to obtain a spectral mapping of
the drawing materials, to be subsequently integrated with technical information provided by art
historians and conservators. Morphological analysis by microprofilometry allowed for the
identification of the typical wave-like texture impressed in the paper during the sheet’s
manufacture, as well as of further paper-impressed traits attributable to the drawing transfer
method used by Leonardo. Optical coherence tomography revealed a set of micrometric engraved
details in the blank background, which lack any trace of colored material, nor display any apparent
relation to the drawn landscape. The disclosure of hidden technical features allowed us to offer new
insights into Leonardo’s still under-investigated graphic practices.

Journal/Review:

Volume: 11      Pages from: 7995  to: 8007

KeyWords: Leonardo da Vinci; drawing; multispectral reflectography; microprofilometry; optical
coherence tomography
DOI: 10.7150/thno.50990

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