, Volume 100, Issue 3, pp 613-624
Date: 29 May 2010

An integrated spectroscopic approach for the non-invasive study of modern art materials and techniques

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A non-invasive study has been carried out on 18 paintings by Alberto Burri (1915–1995), one of Italy’s most important contemporary painters. The study aims to demonstrate the appropriate and suitable use of portable non-invasive instrumentation for the characterization of materials and techniques found in works dating from 1948 to 1975 belonging to the Albizzini Collection. Sampling of any kind has been forbidden, in order to maintain the integrity of the paintings. Furthermore, the material heterogeneity of each single artwork could potentially result in a poorly representative sampling campaign. Therefore, a non-invasive and in situ analytical approach has been deemed mandatory, notwithstanding the complexity of modern materials and challenging data interpretation. It is the non-invasive nature of the study that has allowed for the acquisition of vast spectral data (a total of about 650 spectra including XRF, mid and near FTIR, micro-Raman and UV–vis absorption and emission spectroscopies). In order to better handle and to extrapolate the most meaningful information from these data, a statistical multivariate analysis, namely principal component analysis (PCA), has been applied to the spectral results. In particular, the possibility of combining elemental and molecular information has been explored by uniting XRF and infrared spectra in one PCA dataset. The combination of complementary spectroscopic techniques has allowed for the characterization of both inorganic and organic pigments, extenders, fillers, and binders employed by Alberto Burri.