Cross-sections and chemical analysis of paint samples

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Plesters, Joyce;


Studies in conservation, Volume 2, Number 3, p.110-157 (1956)


cross sections, England), National Gallery (London, paint, painting techniques


The purpose of the preparation of paint cross sections is discussed. A description of the various methods used and a brief historical survey are given. There follows a description of the method used in the National Gallery laboratory, employing a cold-setting polyester resin as the mounting medium. In the National Gallery paint specimens are examined primarily to provide a specific piece of information for the restorer working on the picture, but at the same time all possible data are collected about materials and technique, and the cross sections are kept as a permanent mount for future reference. Painting techniques of the old masters are discussed and illustrated by photomicrographs of paint cross sections of pictures dating from Masaccio to Renoir. The chemical examination of paint samples, both as unmounted fragments and as mounted cross sections is described and there is a table of tests for pigments, using both simple chemical reagents and organic "spot-test" reagents. In addition, a scheme for the classification of paint media by chemical tests is suggested.