A research about an underlying painting of Jan Steen was carried out from 2011 first attributed to the art history research by Dr. Li-Pen Yu of Tainan National University of the Arts, later continued for scientific examination together by our painting conservator Wen-Yuan Lee, and the senior application scientist Dr. Roald Tagle from Bruker Nano GmbH.
The result was presented at the TECHNART 2017 conference in Spain, and now under preparation for the article to be published.
Following is the abstract of this presentation, and the complete information will be updated further on.
Two in one: Unraveling a hidden Jan Steen painting
Wen-Yuan Lee(1), Roald Tagle(2),
(1)Chimei Museum, No. 66, Sec. 2, Wenhua Rd., Rende Dist., Tainan City 71755, Taiwan (R.O.C),
(2) Bruker Nano, Am Studio 2D, 12489 Berlin, Germany
A work of art represents the artist’s brainchild. The artist often makes adjustments during the creative process and may even over-paint an abandoned work for unknown reasons. These changes or overlays conceal invaluable information beneath the surface, so to unwrap these secrets allows us to glance at the fragments of their creations to decipher their intriguing lives.
This work focuses on a painting by the Dutch painter Jan Steen (1626-1679) A Visit to the Village Lawyer. The current study was performed with spatially resolved micro X-ray fluorescence (µ-XRF) using a M6 Jetstream from Bruker; and IR reflectography with the Osiris IR image system. Jan Steen is known for using humorous approaches to incorporate didacticism into his paintings. A Visit to the Village Lawyer, collected by Chimei Museum, portrays a peasant couple exchanging a gift for documents interpreted by a village lawyer. In it, various traditional motifs are depicted to satirize the immorality of the lawyer .
Using the M6 Jetstream a series of high resolution scans were captured and collaged. The distribution map of Pb-L (lead L-alpha line) associated with the pigment lead white exposed a distinctive composition of a crowd around a table, rotated 90° clockwise, from the upper right of the painting. Information obtained from the Hg-L (mercury L-alpha Line), most likely vermillion, revealed changes in the assistant figure on the upper painting. The initial draft of his pose was first portrayed facing towards the door, but later changed into glancing backwards with an insinuating facial expression, conveying more amusement and sarcasm. The combination of the lead and mercury maps allowed the underlying composition to be identified as clearly related to another Jan Steen painting – Pleasures of Fatherhood , where the characters are in the same positions suggesting an almost identical composition. However, the one hidden beneath A Visit to the Village Lawyer is unfinished.
The IR reflectography images captured by the Osiris IR image system reveal a very roughly sketched draft. With very little but representative strokes, the draft can be identified as also corresponding to the composition of Pleasures of Fatherhood, where the artist marked off the principle character and items.
Recent developments in multispectral analysis now provide the possibility to image larger areas; which in addition to the visualization of chemical information provides a huge support to the interpretation of paintings analyzed.
 The information of Jan Steen and A Visit to the Village Lawyer is acknowledged from the research in 2011 by Dr. Li Pen, Yu, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, Tainan National University of the Arts.
 The painting is presently in the collection of Hamburger Kunsthalle.