Scientists and conservators from several European universities and art institutions assessed the health of 12 Salvador Dalí paintings by testing the backs of the canvasses without disturbing the fronts, testing a method similar to that which doctors use to measure blood sugar without a needle.
The study's analytical method determined pH and degree of polymerisation of cellulose in fibers in the canvasses of 19th and 20th century paintings and identified the fiber type of each.
Published in the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Analytical Methods, the research findings allow conservators to measure the durability of a canvass to determine whether the painting is able to withstand handling or transportation to exhibitions.
From a release:
"While distressed paint layers can be evaluated visually from the front, there has been no method available so far to evaluate the fragility of canvas without actually cutting off a piece of it, which is certainly unacceptable" explained Irene Civil, Head of the Conservation Department of the Gala-Salvador Dalí Foundation from Figueres, Spain.
[Dr Matija Strlic, Senior Lecturer from UCL's Centre for Sustainable Heritage] added, "As in medical diagnostics, only close interdisciplinary collaboration between curators, conservators and researchers can lead to truly useful development. The non-invasive canvas health check can now improve the standard of management and care in any gallery or museum."