Confocal XRF depth profiling non-destructively reveals the original blue pigments in a Renaissance painting by Caroto

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Myriam Eveno; Erin Mysak; Katharina Müller; Gilles Bastian; Nathalie Pincas; Ina Reiche;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 61, Number 2, p.102-112 (2016)


Recent restoration of The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Giovanni Francesco Caroto, from the Louvre collections, included a technical examination of the Virgin's blue robe that aimed to characterize the original materials and later additions. The painting was examined using light microscopy and ultraviolet and infrared imaging, and one cross section was taken. None of these methods showed a clear distinction between the layers that were artist applied or modifications made by another hand. To gain information about the paint stratigraphy without taking additional samples, non-invasive confocal X-ray fluorescence (CXRF) analysis was carried out to examine several areas of the Virgin's robe. Using this technique, it was possible to identify the pigments and order of application of paint by the artist. All the pigments identified were considered to be artist applied, and on this basis no further cleaning was carried out and conservation proceeded with retouching of minor areas of loss or damage. This study highlights the advantages of CXRF analysis for the technical study of paintings, used in combination with classical methods for making informed conservation treatment decisions.