Skip to main content

AR app demystifies techniques of Renaissance artists

A new AR app allows visitors to see new research images taken under the surface of a Renaissance panel that only picture conservation experts normally view. 

The app is part of the Inspire 2020 exhibition running until 22 March, which showcases primary school children’s art works in response to a painting of Cupid and Psyche, painted by the artist Jacopo del Sellaio in Florence in the early 1470s. Over the last year, 3800 children and teachers have researched and studied the painting in schools across Cambridgeshire. The project also inspired Museum and University experts to carry out their own research on the panel.

The app allows users to access images of the new technical analysis of the painting taken by the Museum’s Research Scientist, Paola Ricciardi, and Vicky Sutcliffe, a Paintings Conservator from the Fitz's conservation studio, the Hamilton Kerr Institute (HKI). The images include X-ray scans, Infrared-images, and reflectograms which are superimposed at 1:1 scale over the painting. The zoom level on the images is synchronised on the hand-held device with the user’s movements when held up to the original painting; ‘hotspots’ then appear and allow users to explore the materials used to create its colourful paint layers, the wood panel’s structure, and previously unpublished underdrawings and the artist’s own revisions to the composition. The app encourages visitors to engage with technical data as an integral part of their gallery experience.

Two lunchtime talks at the Fitz will share some of the research from the project:

On Wednesday 4 March,1.15-2.00 pm, Donal Cooper, Senior Lecturer in History of Art, will talk about ‘A love story for the Medici? The story of Cupid and Psyche on Florentine Renaissance wedding chests’

On Wednesday 18 March,1.15-2.00 pm, Paola Ricciardi, Senior Research Scientist at, the Fitzwilliam Museum and Victoria Sutcliffe, Painting Conservator, at the Hamilton Kerr Institute will discuss. ‘Cupid and Psyche: Scientific insights into the painting behind Inspire’

To create the app, University of Florence researcher Giovanni Pescarmona, and Cambridge art historian Donal Cooper, worked with Florence-based app developer Maggioli Group to integrate the new research within an effective user experience, which exploits the potential of mobile-based augmented reality to encourage visitors to look more closely at the original painting.

This pilot project is a research collaboration between the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Departments of History of Art at the University of Cambridge and the University of Florence.

28 February 2020

Other recommended articles

Highlight image for Turn the pages: interactive Utamaro books now online

Turn the pages: interactive Utamaro books now online

1 May 2009

Highlight image for Own a copy of your favourite Fitz artwork

Own a copy of your favourite Fitz artwork

26 October 2011

Sign up for updates

Updates about future exhibitions and displays, family activities, virtual events & news. You'll be the first to know...