A literature analysis examining the potential suitability of terahertz imaging to detect friction ridge detail preserved in the imprimatura layer of oil-based, painted artwork
Hannaford, Jennifer A.
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This literature analysis examines terahertz (THz) imaging as a non-invasive tool for the imaging of friction ridge detail from the first painted layer (imprimatura) in multilayered painted works of art. The paintings of interest are those created utilizing techniques developed during the Renaissance and still in use today. The goal of analysis serves to answer two questions. First, can THz radiation penetrate paint layers covering the imprimatura to reveal friction ridge information? Secondly, can the this technology recover friction ridge detail such that the fine details are sufficiently resolved to provide images suitable for comparison and identification purposes. If a comparison standard exists, recovered friction ridge detail from this layer can be used to establish linkages to an artist or between works of art. Further, it can be added to other scientific methods currently employed to assist with the authentication efforts of unattributed paintings. Flanked by the microwave and far-infrared edges, THz straddles the electronic and optic perspectives of the electromagnetic spectrum. As a consequence, this range is imparted with unique and useful properties. Able to penetrate and image through many opaque materials, its non-ionizing radiation is an ideal non-destructive technique that provides visual information from a painting’s sub-strata. Imaging is possible where refractive index differences exist between different paint layers. Though it is impossible, at present, to determine when a fingerprint was deposited, one can infer approximately when a print was created if it is recovered from the imprimatura layer of a painting, and can be subsequently attributed to a known source. Fingerprints are unique, a person is only able to deposit prints while their physical body is intact and thus, in some cases, the multiple layer process some artists use in their work may be used to the examiner’s advantage. Impressions of friction ridge detail have been recorded on receiving surfaces from human hands throughout time (and have also been discovered in works of art). Yet, the potential to associate those recorded impressions to a specific individual was only realized just over one hundred years ago. Much like the use of friction ridge skin, the relatively recently discovered THz range is now better understood; its tremendous potential unlocked by growing research and technology designed to exploit its unique properties.