Historically, artists have used arsenic pigments, among other poisonous materials, since antiquity. Beautiful but deadly arsenic pigments were not only dangerous for the artists but also are dangerous for the objects: they can readily degrade and react with other components of the complex paint system, producing irreversible damage. Continue reading Deadly beautiful pigments: how arsenic sulfide pigment degradation affects the degradation of paintings
Non-invasive techniques are always at the forefront of a conservation scientist’s mind when working with historic artifacts. But how do we apply these techniques to stained glass windows? Check out this article about using MA-XRF as a first step for understanding the composition of medieval stained glass windows and how they were colored. Continue reading Distinguishing the composition of medieval stained glass windows using x-rays
Everyone has seen a fluorescent painting, but did you know fluorescence (or more-generally photoluminescence) is an effect that may be used to study cultural heritage? Fluorescence phenomena give information about a broad spectrum of materials in a non-invasive manner. Continue reading A fluorescent party: Fluorescence spectroscopy for non-invasive characterization of artwork
Analysis of dyes in textiles is particularly challenging given the complex nature of the mixtures used in their weaving. A novel separation method based on 2-Dimensional Liquid Chromatography shows promise for unraveling what illusive colorants lie within the weave.
Continue reading Untangling the complexity of dyes in historic textiles
Today, some of the most prominent contemporary artists are ditching their paintbrushes and pencils for biological matter like plants, animals, bacteria, and, even, human blood and skin. Wondering how these artworks will last? This post (and an upcoming symposium) will discuss the challenges, ethics, and methods of conserving these unconventional works. Image credit: moca.org Continue reading Decomposing art: How museum professionals treat living matter
Many paintings containing zinc white, such as Alchemy by Jackson Pollock, are slowly destroying themselves from the inside out! Continue reading Are oil paintings slowly eating themselves alive?
There is a hidden source of thousands of medieval documents in early-modern libraries waiting to be read again. These old manuscripts had been cut up and used to make bookbindings, thus hiding them from the human eye. How can macro-XRF be used to reveal these medieval texts? Continue reading Reading hidden book fragments with macro-XRF
The analysis of dyes and lakes is a challenging task for conservation scientists. Nanoparticles and nanocomposites have become a powerful tool to increase the power of spectroscopic techniques, exemplified with SERS. This method not only improves the detection limit but also allows non-invasive analyses. Continue reading Nano-what? Silver nanoparticle gel for identifying pigments
Modern non-invasive analytical techniques reveal what artists thought no one would ever see again. Here we present the story of a portrait that hides another artwork, buried in the layers of paint.
Continue reading Nothing to hide if you are famous
How can we discover and understand the contents of Egyptian grave goods without unsealing them? Neutron and gamma-ray techniques are some ways of probing their contents non-invasively and non-destructively. Elemental analysis can also provide information on the identification, manufacturing, and purpose of these grave goods. Continue reading Looking inside Egyptian grave goods using neutrons