The Underlying Image

Technical documentation has become an essential resource for the knowledge of the physical history of artworks. Non-invasive techniques such as radiography (x-rays), infrared photography (IR), and transmitted infrared photography (IRT) reveal information that the naked eye cannot perceive. Thanks to these, researchers can now “see” vestiges of the creative process hidden under the surface, such as preparatory drawings, particularities of an artist’s brushstrokes, revisions made to the composition, and past restorations. These resources also help researchers identify the materials employed in the making of a painting–in the support, the preparation of the canvas or panel, the priming material, the pictorial layer, and the varnish. This information has become an invaluable tool when planning the restoration of artworks and has proved helpful in confirming attributions, making clear the fundamental role of science in art history and conservation.

The Underlying Image presents to viewers for the first time some of the secrets concealed beneath ten paintings from the collection of the Museo de Arte de Ponce, spanning from the fifteenth to the eighteenth century. Artworks from Spain, Flanders, France, Holland, and Italy are shown alongside radiographs and/or infrared photographs that reveal the traces of their creation.

This project was realized thanks to the collaboration of specialists in technical documentation from Spain: Prof. Marta Raïch Creus and Dr. Iván Rega Castro, affiliated with the Universidad de León, and Dr. Borja Franco Llopis, affiliated with the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia in Madrid. The museum also appreciates the generosity of Dr. Jorge L. Torres Nazario and the Centros Radiológicos in Ponce, who for decades have offered their services free of charge to the Anton J. Konrad Conservation Center of the Museo de Arte de Ponce.

The Underlying Image is made possible by a grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation and funds provided by the United States Department of the Treasury. “American Rescue Plan”, “State and local Recovery Funds”, through AAFAF, Coronavirus State and Local Recovery Funds (CSFRF).