Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Near-infrared spectroscopy illuminates medieval art

Scientists in the US and Italy have borrowed a technique more usually associated with geophysical remote sensing and applied it to medieval artwork - with stunning results. The near-infrared hyperspectral imaging of a leaf from a 15th century illuminated manuscript has produced a map of the pigment binders used by the artist.

The technique will not only allow conservation specialists to better plan strategies for restoring and stabilising paintings, but will also give art historians new insights into the materials and methods favoured by individual artists. Art historians and conservationists need detailed information about materials used by artists, such as the pigments and the organic binding agents, for example gum Arabic or egg white, which were used to carry the pigment.

In some cases it is possible to remove tiny samples from the artwork for analysis, or to use imaging techniques on a small area of the work. But until now it has been difficult to obtain an overview of the materials used across the work as a whole.

Click here to read this article from Chemistry World