Scientists examine medieval painting at the Tower of London

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A medieval wall painting at the Tower of London has received some special attention from scientists at Nottingham Trent University. Dr Haida Liang and her team of researchers were invited by Historic Royal Palaces to use hi-tech equipment developed at the University to examine the 14th century Byward Tower wall painting – without the need to touch or damage it in any way.

For the past six years, Dr Liang and her team have been refining the development and use of non-invasive techniques for examining paintings and archaeological artefacts.

One tool at their disposal is a portable Optical Coherence Tomographer (OCT), which allows them to scan the surface and the layers below the surface of an object with infrared light. OCT was originally developed as a medical imaging tool, but by using it to examine paintings, Dr Liang’s team realised that they could reveal details not visible to the naked eye. The depth and distribution of paint and varnish layers, and even an artist’s preparatory drawings can all become clear. These details might often only be discovered through the removal of tiny samples from the painting, something that art curators and conservators would prefer to not have to do....

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