The robot-scanner has defined authenticity of a masterpiece of Raphael

The painting “Madonna and Child”, whose story is almost as mysterious as the smile of Mona Lisa, was identified as a genuine canvas of Raphael by InsightART. The Czech startup used a robotic X-ray scanner to examine the artwork, reports ESA.

The painting, which is more than 500 years old, has long been attributed to Rafael, a contemporary of Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo, but recently doubts about its authenticity arose.

The background of the painting “Madonna and Child” includes some of the great historical figures of Europe, as well as fierce battles and lucrative deals in the art field. By order of Pope Leo X the painting was in the Vatican, and the painting was also visited by the French royal family and Napoleon. However, at the end of the 19th century the painting disappeared. Now the canvas is in a private collection.

The fact that Raphael was actually the creator of the masterpiece is confirmed by studies of experts from around the world, as well as an international advisory council. And recently it was additionally supported by a young company InsightART, based in the business incubation center ESA (European Space Agency), managed by Czech Invest, in Prague. The Czech startup uses space detector technology to study works of art.

The InsightART robotic X-ray scanner has already been used to identify a previously unknown painting by Vincent van Gogh. The device uses a particle detector developed by CERN, the European laboratory for elementary particle physics, which was redesigned for space exploration and produced by the Czech company ADVACAM.

“This technology, which is also used to measure radiation on the International Space Station, is capable of detecting and counting single photons and determining their exact wavelengths,” explains Joseph Weer, Technical Director of InsightART. “While the standard X-ray machine only produces a black and white image, the RToo scanner produces “color” – or spectral – X-rays that allow materials to be distinguished based on their elemental composition.

The work of art was scanned with the smallest details, from the main layers to the final glaze, revealing in detail the inner structure of Raphael’s painting.

“In the course of this process, it became clear that the work was done by Raphael layer by layer without the help of his assistants and students in the workshop,” stresses Jiří Lauterkranz, restorer and co-founder of InsightART.

Spectral X-ray images show previously hidden layers of the picture. Submitted by: Jiri Lautenkratz, InsightART.

The company received business advice and financial support from ESA’s business incubation center in Prague.