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The ballerina within

Naturevolume 444page149 (2006) | Download Citation


Picasso XRAYS

Xavier Lucchesi's exhibition, 'Picasso XRAYS', can be seen at the National Picasso Museum in Paris ( until 8 January 2007.


At just over 60 centimetres tall, Picasso's Bust of a Woman (1931) is a small, compact mass of a sculpture that smacks of Stone Age totems. Using computerized tomography (CT), photographic artist Xavier Lucchesi has assembled three-dimensional images of it (shown here), revealing what appears to be another, antithetical form hidden inside. At the sculpture's heart lies a finely worked metal structure that bears a strong resemblance to a ballerina. Standing on her points, with head erect and arms gracefully bent, she even appears to be wearing a tutu.

The tutu, it turns out, is an artefact of the technology: a halo of light similar to the phantom thrown up by a dental filling in a CT head scan. Picasso would build his sculptures around metal skeletons, which, in other works scanned by Lucchesi, seem to have served a purely functional role. So it is possible that the ballerina wasn't Picasso's creation at all — that she exists only in the 'eye' of the scanner. If so, there are at least two artists at work here, and one of them is a machine.


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