Dating two wooden book chests that are both attributed to the escape in 1621 of the Dutch intellectual Hugo de Groot; discovering that a 17th-century wooden cornetto (a wind instrument) is made not of one but two types of wood; and making visible the sculptor's fingerprints inside terracotta figurines. These are three striking results that CWI researchers have achieved with the FleX-ray scanner in collaboration with research partner Rijksmuseum. The FleX-ray Lab contains a special X-ray scanner that went into operation in 2017. The research into Hugo de Groot's book chest even won the NWO Team Science Award in November 2021.
The FleX-ray scanner excels in flexibility, high resolution and in the different types of materials the scanner can see through. "We are developing mathematical methods to scan art objects that are very different in terms of shape, dimensions and materials," says Francien Bossema, PhD student in CWI's computational imaging group, the research group that uses the FleX-ray scanner to develop new scanning methods and smart algorithms. "Both the X-ray source, the detector and the object to be scanned can move in relation to each other. This allows us to adapt each scan to the specific requirements of an art object."
Bossema is also a guest researcher at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, working there with, among others, Erma Hermens, Rijksmuseum Professor of Studio Practice and Technical Art History affiliated with both the Rijksmuseum and the University of Amsterdam. "Thanks to the FleX-ray scanner, we discover things in art objects that we cannot find in any other way," says Hermens. "And these new insights in turn raise new questions. This is how we bring art history one step further."
Francien Bossema (l), PhD student at CWI's Computational Imaging group and Erma Hermens (r), technical art historian at Rijksmuseum and UvA. Hermens was recently appointed as the new Director of the Hamilton Kerr Institute and Deputy Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge