14th century Giotto frescoes exposed under ultraviolet light





Frescoes painted by Giotto, the 14th Century Italian master, have been brought to life with the use of ultraviolet technology.

Restorers discovered that under ultraviolet light, long-lost colour and detail was revealed.
The frescoes date from 1320 and decorate the walls of the Peruzzi Chapel in Florence's Santa Croce church.

They were immortalised in EM Forster's Room with a View as the place where the young Englishwoman Lucy Honeychurch, played in the 1985 film by Helena Bonham Carter, meets her future husband.

The frescoes include lavishly illustrated depictions of St John the Evangelist ascending to heaven and the head of St John the Baptist being presented to King Herod on a plate by a Roman soldier.

The researchers stumbled on the ultraviolet technique by accident, after spending four months mapping the frescoes as preparation for a possible future restoration.

In the course of the project, they found that by shining ultraviolet light on the paintings they were able to see much more than was visible to the naked eye.
The frescoes are thought to have been admired by Michelangelo and are said to have influenced his work nearly 200 years later.

The paintings were covered in whitewash in the 18th century and then underwent a brutal restoration in 1840, when the whitewash was removed with the aid of steel wool scrubbers and solvents. The work left the masterpieces faded, scratched and washed out.
Art lovers, however, are unlikely to see the enhanced paintings because permanently bathing them in ultraviolet would damage them.

Restorers hope instead to use the ultraviolet images to build a computer-generated facsimile of the chapel.


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