Spectroscopic techniques allowed to gain insights into the ageing of cadmium reds in priceless artworks

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Advanced analytical techniques are increasingly applied to the study of artworks, and paintings’ colourings are no exception. Cadmium red is a pigment based on cadmium, sulfur, and selenium, whose content influences its colour properties, varying from red-orange to red-purple. Due to its vibrant hue and excellent covering power, many 20th-century artists, including Piet Mondrian, Gerardo Dottori, Joan Mirò, Jackson Pollock, and Nicolas de Staël, included this pigment in their masterpieces. Over the last decade, several spectroscopic techniques have been successfully employed to characterise different cadmium red varieties in paintings.

Dr. Letizia Monico (CNR-SCITEC), Prof. Aldo Romani (Centre of Excellence S.M.A.Art, University of Perugia), and colleagues successfully employed non-invasive spectroscopic techniques based on X-rays, ultraviolet, visible light, and infrared radiation to obtain a complete overview of the pigment composition with insights on the current condition of different paints by Gerardo Dottori, Jackson Pollock, and Nicolas de Staël. Analyses were also performed on artificially aged oil paint mock-ups with varying selenium contents. Among the techniques employed in this research work, there is the X-ray absorption spectroscopy performed at the LISA beamline, CERIC associated facility at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF).

The analyses realised on the paint mock-ups and the non-invasive spectroscopic investigations on the paint masterpieces allowed to gain fundamental insights into the ageing and the degradation processes of the cadmium red pigments. These results are particularly relevant for the optimisation of preventive conservation strategies for priceless artefacts.

Check below the interview with Prof. Aldo Romani and Dr. Letizia Monico about how pigment analysis can help the conservation of art masterpieces

ORIGINAL ARTICLE:

DEEPER INSIGHTS INTO THE PHOTOLUMINESCENCE PROPERTIES AND (PHOTO)CHEMICAL REACTIVITY OF CADMIUM RED (CDS1−XSEX) PAINTS IN RENOWNED TWENTIETH CENTURY PAINTINGS BY STATE-OF-THE-ART INVESTIGATIONS AT MULTIPLE LENGTH SCALES, MONICO L., ROSI F., VIVANI R., CARTECHINI L., JANSSENS K., GAUQUELIN N., CHEZGANOV D., VERBEEK J., COTTE M., D’ACAPITO F., BARNI L., GRAZIA C., PENSABENE BUEMI L., ANDRAL J-L., MILIANI C., & ROMANI A., THE EUROPEAN PHYSICAL JOURNAL PLUS, 2022.

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