How did the great masters of the Renaissance paint their masterpieces with such confidence? With the advent of modern-day conservation tools such as infrared technology, the mysteries that lie beneath the surface of precious artworks are illuminated.

A number of Renaissance artists relied on preparatory drawings, known as cartoons, to guide their paintings, tapestries and frescoes. More substantial than the usual underdrawing, the cartoon transfer process allowed for free-form experimentation until a satisfactory, full-scale trace guide emerged. These drawing guides could be saved and reused—similar to an old-fashioned carbon copy.

This insightful vignette by The J. Paul Getty Museum explores the ingenious cartoon transfer process in more detail. You can view the video here.