University of Nebraska Medical Center

Pearl of Venice on our X-ray table


Carefully placing the painting on an image receptor. The light field shows the section to be x-rayed.

As part of the restoration of the Joslyn Art Museum’s “Pearl of Venice” oil painting by Thomas Moran, they needed a high-quality radiograph.

What better place to do that than right here at The Nebraska Medical Center and UNMC?

It’s not often one is asked to photograph a famous painting as it’s being x-rayed. But I was, and I did! It was quite a thrill to see the painting up close and seemingly vulnerable without its frame.

And what an opportunity for Justin Williams, a 2nd-year Radiography student who will go on to CVIT in the fall! He helped the team who produced the radiographs: James Temme, associate director of Radiation Science Technology Education, Tim Stack, radiologic technologist at The Nebraska Medical Center, and Jolene Horihan, lead radiologic Technologist at The Nebraska Medical Center.

Justin Williams, Tim Stack, Jolene Horihan, and James Temme

Justin Williams, Tim Stack, Jolene Horihan, and James Temme

Kay Johnson from Joslyn Art Museum, and Kenneth Bé, head of paintings conservation at the Gerald Ford Conservation Center handled and positioned the painting with gloves and care. The RT team bustled from table to machine to computer, and I snapped photos in between X-rays. Of course, everyone had to leave the room each time they took an image, but then we would gather around the monitor to see the results.


Kay Johnson and Kenneth Bé with Pearl of Venice after the X-ray

It was especially exciting when Mr. Bé reviewed that first image as it displayed on the computer and pointed out that we were seeing something that hadn’t been seen by anyone other than the painter in over a hundred years.

Pretty cool, huh?!


Viewing the X-ray image on a computer monitor.



Pointing out a spot that had already been cleaned of the yellowed varnish.


Want to see more photos and learn more about this fascinating type of art forensics? Don’t miss the next Science Café presented by Kenneth Bé and James Temme.

“Where Art Meets Science: The Analysis of a Painting”
Tuesday, June 3, 2014
7:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Slowdown 729 N 14th St


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