Journal Highlight: Gilding and pigments of Renaissance marble of Abatellis Palace: non-invasive investigation by XRF spectrometry

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  • Published: Mar 11, 2013
  • Author: spectroscopyNOW
  • Channels: X-ray Spectrometry
thumbnail image: Journal Highlight: Gilding and pigments of Renaissance marble of Abatellis Palace: non-invasive investigation by XRF spectrometry

Gilding and pigments of Renaissance marble of Abatellis Palace: non-invasive investigation by XRF spectrometry

X-Ray Spectrometry, 2013, 42, 68-78
M.F. Alberghina, R. Barraco, M. Brai, L. Pellegrino, F. Prestileo, S. Schiavone, L. Tranchina

The chemical composition of pictorial layers and their stratigraphical distribution on renaissance marble sculptures from Abatellis Palace, Palermo, have been characterised by UV-vis fluorescence and XRF measurements.

Abstract: Most of the artworks constituting the collection of Renaissance statuary of Abatellis Palace in Palermo (Sicily) show evidence of colour layers and fragments of gold foil that probably once covered the whole marble surface. The restoration of some of these statues has allowed to carry out archaeometric studies about the painting technique and to highlight the original materials and inclusion present on the precious marbles by two famous Italian sculptors of the Renaissance, Francesco Laurana and Antonello Gagini. The measurements have been performed in situ through the integrated use of two non-invasive techniques: visible fluorescence stimulated by ultraviolet light and X-ray fluorescence. The ultraviolet-induced fluorescence analysis has provided additional information on the conservation status of marble surfaces by differentiating the pictorial materials and highlighting the presence of gilding and pigment traces through their characteristic fluorescence response. The observation in ultraviolet light has been used as valuable guide for the identification of the significant points to be analysed by X-ray fluorescence to characterise the original materials. X-ray fluorescence measurements have cast light about their chemical composition and stratigraphical structure. Pictorial layers were identified: vermilion for red layers, blue pigment based on copper for blue layers and pure gold leaf for gilding layers. Principal component analysis of the data was capable of clustering the different painting materials, discriminating through their chemical content. The results represent an important scientific support both to the hypotheses about the original look of the artworks and to the resolution of restoration and conservation questions still open.

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