A portable macro x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer has been developed for the examination of historical paintings in situ. The device, which will be commercially available, enables scientists to look for layers of paint hidden below the visible top layer. This often reveals any alterations or customisations that have been made, or whether the artist re-used canvases from previous work.
While XRF spectroscopy is a well-established technique for the investigation of paintings, such apparatus is usually custom built and not widely available. The new spectrometer is portable and can be positioned in front of the painting to be examined. The machine can image sections of 60x80cm at a time with dwell times less than 10ms and a lateral resolution below 100mm.