Technical Examination Helps English Heritage Confirm 15th Century Painting as Botticelli

Tager Stonor Richardson were very excited to undertake infrared reflectography for English Heritage’s recent conservation treatment of the Madonna of the Pomegranate. Infrared examination revealed changes to the final composition which would not be expected in a copy and this, along with microscopic examination and x-radiography, helped to attribute the painting to Botticelli’s workshop.

Watch Rachel Turnbull, English Heritage’s Senior Collections Conservator, discuss the conservation treatment and technical investigation, with a glimpse of Colin capturing the reflectogram here.

The newly restored Madonna of the Pomegranate will be on display at Ranger’s House in Greenwich from 1st April 2019.


TSR’s Infrared Reflectography Helps to ‘Discover the Secret Techniques of an Old Master’ at Sotheby’s

TSR were pleased to contribute to the understanding of how Tosini made his monumental Mannerist masterpiece, Cleopatra, for the London Old Masters Evening Sale, 4th July 2018. The reflectogram revealed a highly complex underdrawing with dense, liquid hatching – probably done in an ink – used to ‘sculpt’ the forms.

See Chloe Stead’s blog for a discussion of how Sotheby’s use technical imaging techniques to inform their cataloguing.

Detail of the hand from Sotheby's Cleopatra by Michele Tosini

TSR infrared detail of the hand from ‘Cleopatra’ by Michele Tosini, Image Courtesy of Sotheby’s

TSR’s Reflectograms feature in ‘Canaletto & the Art of Venice’ Exhibition at the Queen’s Gallery

'Canaletto and the Art of Venice' Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

‘Canaletto and the Art of Venice’ Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

TSR were very pleased to have one of their reflectograms included in the current Royal Collection exhibition, which offers new insight into the ‘world’s finest group of paintings, drawings and prints by Venice’s most famous view-painter, Canaletto’. The exhibition runs from the 19th May to the 12th November 2017 and is accompanied by an excellent scholarly catalogue by Lucy Whitaker and Rosie Razall. The catalogue also includes infrared reflectograms taken by TSR that help shed light on the artist’s working methods and reveal the otherwise hidden techniques of his drawings.

TSR’s Infrared Reflectography Contributes to Sotheby’s Cataloguing of Russian Paintings

TSR were excited to undertake infrared reflectography on a group of Russian paintings for the 6th June 2017 sale of Russian Pictures at Sotheby’s.

Ivan Aivazovsky 'Ship off the Crimean Coast', Image Courtesy of Sotheby's

Ivan Aivazovsky ‘Ship off the Crimean Coast’, Image Courtesy of Sotheby’s

TSR Infrared Reflectogram of Ivan Aivazovsky 'Ship off the Crimean Coast', Image Courtesy of Sotheby's

TSR Infrared Reflectogram of Ivan Aivazovsky ‘Ship off the Crimean Coast’, Image Courtesy of Sotheby’s


This group of Nineteenth Century pictures proved particularly fruitful in infrared showing distinctive underdrawing techniques as well as some surprising pentimenti; some of which are discussed in Charlotte Larkin’s blog: The Infrared Technology Revealing the Hidden Secrets of Paintings.

TSR’s Infrared Reflectography help the Holburne Museum to firmly attribute their ‘Wedding Dance in the Open Air’ to Pieter Brueghel the Younger

Bruegel Publication

‘Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty’ Exhibition, 11 February – 4 June 2017

TSR were very excited to undertake infrared examination of the Holburne Museum’s ‘Wedding Dance in the Open Air’. In recent times, much study has been undertaken on paintings based on the compositions of Pieter Bruegel the Elder to try to distinguish his work from that of his sons, Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder, their studios and later pastiches based on these incredibly popular motifs. The highly characteristic underdrawing revealed in the infrared reflectogram confirmed the Museum’s attribution to Pieter Brueghel the Younger. This newly discovered masterpiece adds to the Holburne Museum’s outstanding collection of Bruegelian art, which includes ‘Robbing the Bird’s Nest’ and ‘Visit to a Farmhouse’, making it the primary collection of Pieter Brueghel the Younger’s work in the UK.

A book to accompany the exhibition Bruegel: Defining a Dynasty, which includes reflectograms by TSR, is written by Dr. Amy Orrock and published by Philip Wilson, and is now available to purchase.

Links in the Press

Today Programme, Radio 4

The Guardian

The Art Newspaper

TSR Contribute to the NPG’s ‘The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered’

The Real Tudors NPG Exhibition

The Real Tudors
NPG Exhibition

Building on the huge body of research undertaken for the Making Art in Tudor Britain project, the NPG mounted a ground-breaking exhibition which used technical analysis to explore the representation of the five kings and queens of the Tudor dynasty. The Real Tudors re-examined Royal Tudor portraiture attempting to see these portraits in a new light, as they would have been viewed in their own time, by using the latest tools of scientific investigation to better understand the development of these iconic images. For example, the two portraits of the young Edward VI are both echo Holbein’s Whitehall prototype of Henry VIII (Edward’s father) and depict the boy standing with his feet wide apart. Infrared reflectography of the 1547 portrait of the boy king clearly shows that the feet were initially set even further apart before the artist realised that this would appear a little to exaggerated for a nine year old boy.

TSR contribute Technical Feature to the Picture Restorer Journal

Underdrawing on Rubens’ Cain Slaying Abel – A Case Study Highlighting the Different Penetration of Infrared Cameras

‘It’s widely understood that if we want to find underdrawings the infrared part of the spectrum is the place to go. But not all infrared detecting devices will reveal the same things. To help demystify the difference between infrared photography and infrared reflectography, Kate Stonor and Clare Richardson of Tager Stonor Richardson describe the discovery of some fascinating underdrawings in a Rubens painting.’ The Picture Restorer, Issue 43, Autumn 2013, pp17-19.

The article discusses some of the recent developments in the infrared examination of works of art and compares the relative penetration of digital photography and reflectography with the OSIRIS camera, used by Tager Stonor Richardson. The difference in operation wavelength between these two techniques, photography and reflectography, was clearly illustrated by a recent technical examination of the Courtauld Gallery’s Cain Slaying Abel (1608-09). Though a relatively early work, Rubens’ virtuoso handling of the paint led us to assume that no traditional underdrawing had been used. This was supported by the first infrared image captured using an adapted digital camera. However, something very unexpected was revealed by the infrared image captured using the OSIRIS system: there was a distinct, carbon-based underdrawing beneath the trees at the left. The foliage in this area uses azurite pigment mixed with lead tin yellow, some lead white and earths to create the green tones. Azurite and malachite pigments are relatively absorbing of infrared and therefore much more difficult to penetrate. In order to ‘see through’ these paint layers it was necessary to go further into the infrared region, beyond 1µm. This has some significant implications for the authorship of this part of the composition. The article describes the documentary evidence for Rubens’ use of studio assistants and specialists, including high status artists such as Frans Synders, and hypothesises that the underdrawing in the foliage might indicate the very early use of a landscape specialist – something that would have been missed if the painting had only been examined with infrared photography!

For an overall IRR image of the painting please go to our gallery:

Digital IR photograph (left) taken with Nikon Coolpix E995 compared with IR Reflectogram  (right) made with the OSIRIS camera. Both images of P.1978.PG.353 Cain Slaying Abel by Peter Paul Rubens, © the Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

Digital IR photograph (left) taken with Nikon Coolpix E995 compared with IR Reflectogram (right) made with the OSIRIS camera (copyright TSR/OPUS Instruments). Both images of P.1978.PG.353 Cain Slaying Abel by Peter Paul Rubens, © the Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London


Renate Woudhuysen-Keller Festscrift: New Research on Underdrawing and Kate Stonor on Corot’s Technique

An interesting article addressing the relative absence of some underdrawing in certain genres of painting has been published as part of a Festscrift celebrating the work of Renate Woudhuysen-Keller. Charlotte Caspers, Johanneke Verhave and Margreet Wolters were involved in the recent research project examining the workshop of Dutch painter Michiel van Mierevelt, which was responsible for producing enormous numbers of portraits and portrait copies during the Seventeenth Century. Continue reading “Renate Woudhuysen-Keller Festscrift: New Research on Underdrawing and Kate Stonor on Corot’s Technique” »

Titian’s Venus & Adonis: A Curator’s Study Morning at Dulwich Picture Gallery, Saturday 24th November 2012

As part of their ‘Art for Adults’ programme, the Sackler Centre for Arts Education at the Dulwich Picture Gallery is running a ‘Curator’s Study Morning’ examining their newly conserved version of Venus & Adonis. The painting, now thought to have been produced in Titian’s workshop, had languished in storage since the late 19th century but recent restoration and research has helped to uncover its quality. TSR were lucky enough to undertake infrared examination of the Dulwich painting to contextualize the work amongst the many extant versions after Titian’s original. These issues will be discussed by Xavier Bray and Amy Concannon, Chief Curator and Assistant Curator at DPG, and Sophia Plender, the conservator who undertook the remarkable restoration, during the study morning.

If you are interested in attending please contact Lettie Mckie on 020 8299 8732 or