This exhibition celebrates the Museum’s new Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation Center for Conservation, opening later this year. Hidden Layers: Painting and Process in Europe, 1500–1800 highlights recent technical findings for European paintings in the Blaffer and MFAH collections.

The imaging techniques of x-radiography and infrared reflectography have uncovered preparatory layers and underlying changes in the paintings. Now, the materials throughout the entire depth of a painting, or just below the visible surface, can be seen.

Sometimes major, spectacular transformations are revealed, with entirely different compositions underneath. Other examples show the brilliance of an artist’s underdrawing, or subtle alterations of line as the design is refined and developed. In all of them, details of the artists’ working methods—as well as clues to original and changing artistic intention—are made clearer by discovering what lies in the hidden layers.

Hidden Layers also features important Old Master prints from the Blaffer Collection that show wonderful interpretations of the artist at work in the studio. Some of the images are allegorical, and some are straightforwardly descriptive, but all are superb works of art in their own right.