Visualizing pentimenti: Revealing the hidden history of paintings

A. A. Gooch*, Jack Tumblin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Art conservators often explore X-ray images of paintings to help find pentimenti, the artist's revisions hidden beneath the painting's visible first surfaces. X-ray interpretation is difficult because framing, canvas damage, and noise clutter the image; because X-rays superimpose features from all paint layers, and because image intensity depends on both the paint layer thickness and each pigment's opacity. We present a robust user-guided method to suppress clutter, find visually significant differences between X-ray images and colour photographs, and visualize them together. These tools allow domain experts as well as museum visitors to explore the artist's creative decisions that led to a masterpiece.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-142
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Mathematics and the Arts
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2007


  • 68N99
  • 68W99
  • AMS Subject Classifications
  • Image archive
  • Image processing
  • Painting analysis
  • Pentimenti
  • Perception
  • Visualization
  • X-rays

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design


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