Osman Hamdi Bey’s paintings which are part of the Sabanci University Sakıp Sabancı Museum’s Collection as well as the findings regarding the techniques employed by the artist in these paintings are presented to the art lovers with the ‘Osman Hamdi Bey Beyond Vision’ exhibition. The exhibition is based on the results of the ‘Scientific Analysis and Conservation of Osman Hamdi Bey’s Paintings’ project which was completed in two years, and aims to inform the guests about the artist’s paint application techniques, the materials he used and the restoration work the paintings have undergone. The stages of the conservation and scientific analysis work are presented in their sequence thereby giving clues as to how the details which cannot be seen with the naked eye in the works of this artist who has a prominent place in Turkish art history can contribute to his art’s interpretation.
This project, which constitutes the most comprehensive conservation and scientific analysis work on Osman Hamdi Bey’s paintings focused on the six paintings in the Sakıp Sabancı Museum’s Collection. The first step of the project consisted of subjecting the six paintings to X-ray imaging to reveal Osman Hamdi Bey’s work technique and the paintings’ present condition. This was followed by the chemical analyses of the elements of the paintings. The micro samples taken were embedded in capsules with epoxy to preserve their characteristics and analyzed with the SEM-EDS (scanning electron microscope with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy) technique to determine the structure, colors, paint layers and texture of the materials used by the artist and the elements contained. ‘Fingerprint’ graphs of the paints were revealed with the Raman spectroscopy, and the pigments constituting them were discovered. Finally, the organic structure of the six paintings was analyzed with FTIR (Fouriertransform infrared spectroscopy) and the data was classified through the PCA (primary component analysis) method to determine their characteristics.
‘Scientific Analysis and Conservation of Osman Hamdi Bey’s Paintings’ project revealed the types of pigments frequently used by the artist as well as details regarding his paint application technique which are not visible to the naked eye. The hard and soft brushstrokes in his paintings were uncovered and information on the work he conducted on the canvas before he started painting was obtained. Within the context of the project which will provide the basis for future research on the artist, the present condition of the paintings was also determined and conservation work completed. Arguments about the artist’s meticulousness in the use of materials, preference for materials which were relatively expensive in his time, the detailed work he conducted before painting were scientifically confirmed. The discovery of details not visible to the naked eye formed a basis for the reevaluation of Osman Hamdi Bey’s paintings in the Sakıp Sabancı Museum Collection from the art history perspective.
Why is X-ray Imaging Necessary?
Photographs obtained with the X-ray imaging technique provide information about the structure under the painting’s surface and the paint content, as well as clues to the artist’s technique, while at the same time determining the physical condition of the painting. They show how the metals within the pigment are dispersed, thus enabling us to trace the artist’s brushstrokes on the canvas. The photographs also show any changes the artist made on the painting, traces of restoration work and the transformation it has undergone over time.
What is pigment analysis?
Pigment analysis consists of the methods required to obtain information regarding the materials and the techniques used by the artist and to date the painting. First, samples taken from different parts of the painting are embedded in capsules containing epoxy to prevent their dispersion and preserve their characteristics. These samples are analyzed with SEM-EDS (scanning electron microscope with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy) to determine the elemental content of the pigments used by the artist, while the Raman spectroscopy analysis enables us to define the molecular and structural characteristics of these pigments with reference to the SEM-EDS analysis results.
How are the characteristics of the canvas determined?
Determining the type of canvas material enables us to date the painting and provides the detailed information necessary to trace the transformation of the painting due to causes such as dust, dirt or yellowing of the varnish. The canvas material is the natural polymer known as cellulose which is the main constituent of linen and cotton plant cells. Cellulose consists of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms aligned in different combinations, and clues about the type of plant the canvas is made from, where it has been cultivated and in which season can be derived with the FTIR (Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy) method. The FTIR results are then subjected to PCA (principal component analysis) which is a statistical method for simplification of data derived from various analyses and which provides information about the source, structure and related characteristics of the canvas material.