- X-ray analysis on a 19th century painting reveals the artist initially painted a vivacious blonde woman.
- The artist, who remains unknown, then painted over the work with a sedate brunette.
Experimenting with a vivacious blonde, only to settle instead on a somber brunette, is an old, clichéd storyline -- in fact, it's at least 200 years old.
A new analysis of a 19th century painting reveals that the artist first depicted a blonde with purple ribbons in her hair, before painting the canvas over with a sedate, unadorned brunette.
Altering the original version of a painting, a practice known as pentimenti from the Italian pentirsi, to repent, is not uncommon, said Matthias Alfeld, who presented his finding March 29 at a meeting of the American Chemical Society. This particular instance of "the artist's regret" was revealed by a technique known as scanning macro-X-ray fluorescence at DESY, the German accelerator laboratory in Hamburg. Stimulated by an X-ray beam, chemical elements in the painting fluoresce, revealing hidden pigments without damaging the artwork.