CSIRO Reveals Involvement w/ Mystery Behind Picasso’s The Blue Room

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By Athena Yenko | July 4, 2014 9:40 AM EST

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation had significant involvement in decoding the mystery of Pablo Picasso's first masterpiece, The Blue Room.

Scientists found that The Blue Room hides a portrait of a man in a bow-tie with his face resting on his hand - this was revealed to The Associated Press last week.

The mysterious hidden portrait within The Blue Room had now spark new research aimed to identify the relationship of the man to Picasso.

CSIRO revealed that the organisation's fast X-ray detector, Maia, was the tool used in order to decode the mysterious picture.

According to the blog from CSIRO, The Blue Room was brought to the  Wilson Synchrotron Lab in the US in 2012. In the laboratory, scientists from Cornell University used an S-ray detector to search the hidden picture underneath the painting. After this process, the painting was scanned using an X-ray fluorescence (XRF) detector, the CSIRO's Maia.

"Maia, developed by CSIRO scientists along with the US Brookhaven National Laboratory, is an exceptionally fast X-ray detector that distinguishes spectral signatures of different elements, such as mercury, iron and cobalt in complex natural samples," CSIRO wrote.

"The technology has a huge range of potential research application, from identifying gold and platinum formation in ore, to tracking trace metal distribution in brain tissue in neurodegenerative disease. In the art world, it can provide evidence of exactly which materials and colours artists have used in their work," CSIRO explained.

Comparing to infrared technology, Dr Arthur Woll of Cornell's University said that MAIA can scan more colours that were used in the painting. While infrared made the most precise imagery of The Blue Room, the output needs a complicated construal of the hues and contrasts of colours in the images.

 "That's where XRF comes in. By giving scanners further clues about colouration, it can help them match a buried portrait with other Picasso pieces of the time, for example," Woll said.

"It captures unprecedented spatial details very quickly, limiting risk of damage to delicate works of art," CSIRO's Dr Chris Ryan, one of Maia's developers involved in the Picasso project, added.

The portrait of a man hidden in The Blue Room is just the beginning of what will be a more extensive research to discover more meanings behind Picasso's The Blue Room.

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