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X-Ray Reveals a Composition Covered Under the Iconic Portrait of the Lavoisiers

20.10.2021
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Portrait of the Lavoisiers

Analysis of the painting by Jaques-Louis David with the help of modern technologies made it possible to find new elements under its layer of paint. And they completely changed the idea of ​​a centuries-old masterpiece.

The painting is a portrait of the famous French chemist of the 18th century Antoine Lavoisier. He is depicted with his wife Marie-Anne. What is also visible is a table with glass test tubes, a bottle, and other chemical equipment.

X-Ray paintings analysis

We can only imagine the surprise of the researchers when, as a result of MA-XRF, they were able to see the original idea of the creator of the portrait. It turned out that there was no hint of the chemist’s scientific achievements in the initial composition. The emphasis was on his privileged position in society, he was an aristocrat.

Specifically, David’s first concept included an ornate table with gilded decorations and three scrolls of paper hanging from its edge. The latter hinted at Lavoisier’s duties- in France he was engaged not only in science but also was the general tax collector.

New Elements Were Discovered Under the Layers of Lavoisiers’ Painting

Analysis of the painting also revealed new details on Marie-Anne’s outfit. She had a gigantic, feathery hat decorated with ribbons and fake flowers.

Researchers believe that the changes in the composition of the painting reflect changing political trends, namely: the inevitable beginning of the French Revolution. Jacques-Louis David went over to the side of the revolutionaries. He completed the portrait of the chemist Lavoisier in 1788, on the eve of the revolution in France.

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