The interdisciplinary project is based on research carried out by the four research groups working closely together on art-historical and scientific issues.
A first area of research is based on an examination of textual sources, printed documents and manuscripts which include: manifestos, publications in various volumes, journals and letters. Painting instruction manuals – many of which were written and attentively read by artists – will be studied along with new editions of historical painting treatises. The study of bibliographical and archival sources is aimed at understanding the conservation history of paintings in order to better establish changes occurred to the works over time, and the presence of added materials in paintings in order to guide their interpretation and scientific study of constituent materials.
Analysis of works of art
A second part of the project is based on the direct examination of works of art which will be carried out using cutting-edge scientific instrumentation. Non-invasive in situ analysis will comprise:
Study of original materials from artists’ studios and firms’ archives
The research on paintings will be completed with the study of original materials from artists’ studios, including palettes, paint tubes and other objects which have been catalogued and will be analysed scientifically. Historical pigment archives of paint manufacturers (including Lefranc & Bourgeois) have also been investigated.
For the characterization and study of painting materials, also in relation to possible decay factors, samples will be collected and analysed in the laboratory:
- Micro-FTIR Spectroscopy
- Micro-Raman Spectroscopy
- Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM)
Preparation of reference samples for the study of paintings materials
The preparation of mockup samples through the application of historical colors on an adequate support material, singly and layered, also including a priming coat, is part as well of the methodology. The goal is to optimize the non-invasive analytical protocol, finding effective ways to integrate non-invasive analysis (imaging and point-like) and laboratory techniques (both non-invasive and micro-destructive). Through the analysis of the models, we would like to specify the parameters for the characterisation of modern painting materials, verifying which techniques provide the most useful date for the discrimination of possible degradation processes.
The scientific analysis aims at providing information about the materials and techniques of the studied paintings (revealing the nature of pigments, binders, varnishes, additional extenders and fillers), it will also reveal the working methods adopted by artists (from the preparatory design to the layering of varnishes) and changes or modifications made to the painting surfaces. The integration of complementary analyses will allow the presence and extent of degradation of painting materials to be assessed.