Silvia Amato

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Silvia Amato

PhD student and Technical Assistant, Department of Conservation and Technology

Thesis: Interpreting technical images using novel non-invasive techniques for the investigation of paintings by Édouard Manet from the Courtauld Gallery

Supervised by Prof. Aviva Burnstock

Funded by:

  • Courtauld Scholarship 2019/2020 (Rosamond D. Harley Scholarship);
  • Courtauld Scholarship 2018/2019;
  • Courtauld Scholarship 2017/2018 (Rosamond D. Harley Scholarship);
  • Courtauld Scholarship 2016/2017 (Rosamond D. Harley Scholarship);
  • Courtauld Scholarship 2015/2016 (Rosamond D. Harley Scholarship).

The research applies recently developed portable non-invasive imaging techniques Scanning Multispectral Infrared Reflectography (SMIRR), VIS-NIR Hyperspectral Imaging and Macro-X-ray Fluorescence (MA-XRF) to investigate the materials and techniques of four paintings by Édouard Manet in the Courtauld Gallery: the iconic A Bar at the Folies–Bergère painted in 1882; Le Déjeuner sur L’Herbe, a version of the large work in the Musée d’Orsay; Au Bal – Marguerite de Conflans en Toilette de Bal, a striking sketch painted between 1870 and 1880 whose function remains unknown and which remained in Manet’s studio until his death; and Banks of the Seine at Argenteuil, one of the very few works painted partly en plein-air by Manet (on long-term loan from a private collection). Together with these four paintings, another work attributed to Manet, Portrait of Madame Manet, recently conserved in the Department will be investigated.

Multispectral/hyperspectral VIS-NIR techniques offer imaging of paintings based on reflectance variations of different pigments at different wavelengths and facilitate the visibility of underlying layers; one to one MA-XRF elemental maps present information about the distribution of inorganic materials on the surface and sub-surface of paintings.

However, data interpretation can be affected by variables such as thickness, composition, and structure of the paint layers, something particularly problematic in the case of paintings that have been repeatedly reworked. It is within this context that this thesis means to provide further and new insights into the interpretation of technical images gained using these novel non-invasive techniques.

This range of methods will be used in an integrated approach that aims to characterise the materials and methods Manet used to paint the works. A further goal is to address questions concerning the artist’s composition planning, finishing, copying, replicating and the possibility of later additions – issues that have been raised in relation to Manet’s oeuvre.

A comparative study of data gathered from the case studies with those gathered from a range of reference samples produced using known materials and techniques similar to those of the works, can provide a way to develop a method for evaluating the technical images produced and for facilitating data interpretation.

Investigating this group of paintings will not only allow assessment of the application of multispectral/hyperspectral imaging and MA-XRF to the study of Impressionist works, but it will also provide new evidence for further examination of Manet’s painting practice.


  • Master’s Degree in Sciences for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage
    October 2009 – July 2012
    Faculty of Mathematics, Physics and Life Sciences, University of Parma, Italy. Thesis: Santa Maria Antiqua al Foro Romano: the scientific investigations into the identification of the materials used for the mural paintings in the Presbyterian area.
  • Bachelor’s degree in Technologies for the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Heritage
    October 2005 – October 2009
    Faculty of Conservation of Cultural Heritage, University of Tuscia, Viterbo, Italy. Thesis: The Pietà fresco by Francesco Salviati in Santa Maria dell’Anima in Rome: diagnostic investigations for the study of executive technique and state of preservation.

Research interests

  • Technical Art History
  • Conservation Science
  • History of Art
  • Easel paintings

Recent conference papers

  •  S. R. Amato, A. Burnstock, F. Rosi, L. Cartechini, R. Fontana, A. Dal Fovo, M. Paolantoni, C. Grazia, A. Romani, A. Tournié, A. Michelin, C. Andraud, A multi-analytical approach to the study of materials and techniques of five paintings by Édouard Manet at the Courtauld Gallery: the EXAManet project, Iperion CH 2nd Transnational Access Users meeting, The National Gallery, London, November 8, 2017.
  • M. Cross, S. R. Amato, A. Burnstock, A technical study of the Courtauld Gallery’s Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe using Macroscopic X-ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy to provide new insights into Manet’s painting practice, Writing Impressionism Into and Out of Art History, 1874 to Today, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, November 3-4, 2017.
  • S. R. Amato, A. Burnstock, M. Cross, K. Janssens, F. Rosi, L. Cartechini, R. Fontana, M. Paolantoni, C. Grazia, A. Romani, A. Tournié, A. Michelin, C. Andraud, J. Dik, Interpreting technical evidence from paintings by Édouard Manet in The Courtauld Gallery, Satellite Workshop CH MA-XRF within ICXOM24, 24th International Congress on X-ray Optics and Microanalysis, Trieste, Italy, September 24-25, 2017.
  • TECHNART 2015 Non-destructive and microanalytical techniques in art and cultural heritage − Catania, Italy, April 27 – 30, 2015 A multi-analytical approach to the study of the mural paintings in the Presbyterian area of Santa Maria Antiqua al Foro Romano in Rome

Recent publications

  • Amato S.R., Burnstock A., Cross M., Janssens K., Rosi F., Cartechini L., Fontana R., Dal Fovo A., Paolantoni M., Grazia C., Romani A., Michelin A., Andraud C., Tournié A., Dik J., ‘Interpreting technical evidence from spectral imaging of paintings by Edouard Manet in the Courtauld Gallery’, X-Ray Spectrometry 48, no.4 (2019): 282-292. DOI: 10.1002/xrs.2828.
  • Amato S.R., Bersani D., Lottici P.P., Pogliani P., Pelosi C., ‘A multi-analytical approach to the study of the mural paintings in the presbytery of Santa Maria Antiqua al Foro Romano in Rome’, Archaeometry 59, no. 6 (2017): 1050-1064. DOI: 10.1111/arcm.12296.
  • Amato S.R., ‘Beyond Visible Light’, ed. Rory McCartney, Archive/Archive, Issue B, 2017.
  • Amato S. R., Burnstock A., ‘When Art meets Science. Traditional and cutting-edge scientific methods applied to the study of paintings at the Courtauld’, The Courtauld News, issue 38, 2015.
  • Amato S. R. (2013) Pigments in Jain manuscript art, ©JAINpedia

Other academic activity

  • Technical Assistant at the Department of Conservation and Technology, The Courtauld Institute of Art

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