Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science

Beeldvorming: A non-invasive look inside statues

Neutron tomography on bronzes has proven its value in revealing intriguing features otherwise hidden in the inaccessible interior of statues. Neutron transmission has shown promise for quantitative analyses of bronze alloys using neutron techniques. By combining neutron and gamma-ray tomography we aim to elevate the non-invasive method of neutron tomography to the next level by identifying the chemical composition of all structures in the interior, quantitatively. Neutron and gamma-ray tomography are highly penetrating techniques and are therefore the only non-invasive methods to achieve such quantitative information throughout the entire bulk of an art object. The quantification of the spatially resolved chemical composition is determined by data fusion of neutron and gamma-ray tomography, where the specific sensitivities of both techniques serve as mutual boundary conditions in the reconstruction of the 3D elemental model. The data generated by our research will deliver unprecedented insight in the ancient production process of these art objects and reveal in-depth information on possible past restorations.

Object: Rijksmuseum, Photo: Helmholz-Zentrum Berlin

Tomographic slices from neutron tomography of two Asian bronze sculptures in the collection of the Rijksmuseum. The tomograms reveal the interior pore structure (left) in the solid bronze, and iron armature, core and restoration materials in the hollow-cast bronze (right). Photo: Helmholz-Zentrum Berlin, 2016

Project acronym


Principal Investigator

  • Dr. ing. L. van Eijck (Delft University of Technology)

Co-Principal Investigator

  • Dr. ir. M. C. Goorden (Delft University of Technology)
  • S. Creange Msc (Rijksmuseum)
  • Dr. I. Joosten (Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands)
  • Dr. D.J.M. Ngan-Tillard (Delft University of Technology)

Research team

  • Dr. Z. Zhou (Delft University of Technology)
  • Dr. ing. J. Plomp (Delft University of Technology)

Participating institutions

  • Delft University of Technology
  • Rijksmuseum
  • Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands
  • Rijksmuseum voor Oudheden
  • Valkhof Museum


Published by  NICAS

28 November 2018