Diagnosis of pathologies in ancient (seventeenth-eighteenth centuries) decorative blue-and-white ceramic tiles: Green stains in the glazes of a panel depicting Lisbon prior to the 1755 earthquake

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Silva, Teresa P.; Figueiredo, Maria-Ondina; Barreiros, Maria-Alexandra; Prudêncio, Maria-Isabel;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 59, Number 2, p.63-68 (2014)


Decorative panels of ceramic glazed tiles comprise a valuable cultural heritage in Mediterranean countries. Their preservation requires the development of a systematic scientific approach. Exposure to an open-air environment allows for a large span of deterioration effects. Successfully overcoming these effects demands a careful identification of involved degradation processes. Among these, the development of micro-organisms and concomitant glaze surface staining is a very common effect observed in panels manufactured centuries ago. This paper describes a study on the nature of green stains appearing at the surface of blue-and-white tile glazes from a large decorative panel with more than one thousand tiles, called Vista de Lisboa that depicts the city before the destruction caused by the 1755 earthquake. The characterization of green-stained blue-and-white tile glazes was performed using non-destructive X-ray techniques (diffraction and fluorescence spectrometry) by directly irradiating the surface of small tile fragments, complemented by a destructive scanning electron microscopy (SEM) observation of one fragment. Despite the green staining, analytical X-ray data showed that no deterioration had occurred irrespective of the blue or white color, while complementary SEM-EDX data provided chemical evidence of microorganism colonization at the stained glaze surface.