More than Meets the Eye is an illuminating new exhibition which presents the findings of a group of specialist art historians, restorers and scientists who have examined key works from London’s Estorick Collection. One of the most important collections of modern Italian art in the world, it is rich in masterpieces by the Futurist avant-garde and the Scuola Metafisica. More than Meets the Eye runs at the Estorick Collection from 23 September until 20 December 2015.

Major works by Giorgio de Chirico, Umberto Boccioni, Giacomo Balla, Gino Severini, Carlo Carrà and Ardengo Soffici have been investigated using the most up-to-date techniques employed in the scientific analysis of artworks. These have brought to light layers of paint hidden beneath the surface of the works, as well as the techniques used by the artists, revealing previously unseen and unknown features, and opening up new perspectives on the paintings in the Collection.

The discoveries include a painting depicting bathing women on the back of Soffici’s famous Cubo-Futurist image Deconstruction of the Planes of a Lamp (1912-13), until now hidden by the complex framing system that has protected the work for decades. One of the biggest revelations of the show is the discovery of an entirely different work underneath Balla’s masterpiece The Hand of the Violinist (1912). Scans have revealed a view of Düsseldorf that forms part of a series of cityscapes created by the artist at this time, but previously known only from photographic documentation.

By combining scientific investigations with new archival research, previously overlooked information has now been interpreted. The supports and preparatory layers of paintings bear witness to the life of a work from its conception in the artist's studio to its most recent restoration. By looking at the paintings in this way, the research team has been able to reconstruct the history of the creation, purchase and exhibition of a number of the Collection’s masterpieces.

The team’s comprehensive campaign of non-invasive analysis was carried out using the latest imaging techniques as well as through spectroscopic analysis. The analytical methods employed have included multispectral high-resolution photography, large-format X-ray imaging, multispectral infrared reflectography and Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM). In one case a C-14 (carbon dating) investigation, used to ascertain the date of organic material, was also carried out.

The exhibition presents the paintings which have been the object of this research – in some cases removed from their frames – alongside the findings of the research team. A multimedia approach will include backlit X-ray plates and high resolution photographs of the works, allowing visitors to explore the paintings as if viewing them under a microscope.