Technical Study of Judith with the Head of Holofernes from Nizhny Tagil Museum of Fine Arts. New Materials for Attribution


We performed a technological investigation of Judith with the Head of Holofernes (a copy of Cristofano Allori’s work) from the Nizhny Tagil Museum of Fine Arts to clarify the painting’s attribution. According to the current attribution, the copy was created in the 17th century Italy. Pigment analysis using X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy was undertaken in order to provide indicators of the approximate date of the Nizhny Tagil copy. The analysis results – supplemented with evidence from UV-imaging and micro-imaging, radiographic examination and studies of the paintings’ support, ground and paint layers – agree with the existing attribution but do not necessarily confirm it. Comparison of the technical characteristics of the Nizhny Tagil Judith with the techniques of Western and Russian painting allows us to extend the dating. In addition, certain fragments of the painting were examined to provide insight into specifics of differences between the copy and the original, which turned out to be mainly the results of previous restorations.

Keywords: 17th century Italian painting, painting technique, canvas, pigments, ground, X-ray fluorescence, scanning electron microscopy, x-radiograph, cross-sections

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