Hieronymus Bosch, “The Temptation of St. Anthony,” circa 1490, oil on panel, 28 x 20 inches, © Museo del Prado, Madrid

Whether you believe technology is a blessing or a curse, there can be no doubt that it has greatly enhanced our ability to understand how artists worked, the materials they used, and perhaps mistakes they made. This exciting exhibition highlights a few cases in point.

“What Lies Beneath” is a fascinating show at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) that investigates the stories that paintings have under the pigments we can see. On view through August 6, “What Lies Beneath” is, in fact, the second of a two-part exhibition series by the museum that focuses on the science behind conservation. “The exhibition illustrates how X-ray and infrared imaging technologies can reveal important clues hidden beneath the surface,” writes the museum, “clues that provide curators, conservators, and conservation scientists with critical information on the authenticity of the work and original intent of the artist.”

Three paintings were specially selected for the exhibition, considering the interesting facts they’ve recently revealed when examined using X-ray and infrared. Continuing, the museum said, “Through an interactive touch screen, guests can see the hidden objects and details that were discovered beneath layers of the paintings. When revealed, a new scene emerges.”

Senior conservation scientist at the IMA Greg Smith adds, “Many people think of the arts and the sciences as two opposing worldviews, but the Conservation Science Indianapolis series shows the rich interface between the two that has existed throughout history and continues to be relevant today. The art museum becomes a fantastic place to teach and learn about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) concepts.”

To learn more, visit the Indianapolis Museum of Art.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


  1. “Elegance from the East: New Insights into Old Porcelain,” just opened at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It carries the concept of science intertwined with art further. Guest curator, Shirley M. Mueller, M.D., uses neuroscience to connect the past to the present. In doing this, she illustrates the similarity of human feeling and motivation across time using the exquisitely detail porcelains in this exhibit. The exhibit is on view in the historic Lilly House on the grounds of the Indianapolis Museum through October 22nd


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