Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 392, Issue 1–2, pp 77–86 | Cite as

Stratigraphic analysis of organic materials in wall painting samples using micro-FTIR attenuated total reflectance and a novel sample preparation technique

  • Charlotte Martin de FonjaudranEmail author
  • Austin Nevin
  • Francesca Piqué
  • Sharon Cather
Original Paper


Wall paintings typically contain low concentrations of organic materials within a largely inorganic matrix and are characterised by their high porosity and long-term exposure to severe environmental conditions. The identification of organic materials within specific paint or plaster layers is challenging and the inherent characteristics of wall painting samples present further complications. Embedding materials (such as epoxy, polyester and acrylic-based resins) used to produce cross-sections often infiltrate porous and leanly bound samples, and compromise the interpretation of Fourier transform infrared attenuated total reflectance (FTIR-ATR) spectra and the qualitative identification of natural organic materials. An alternative method for the preparation of cross-sections of wall painting samples was developed using cyclododecane (C12H24) as a temporary consolidant and barrier coating to encapsulate the sample, and to provide necessary support to produce a cross-section through microtoming. Impacts of traditional and novel sample preparation techniques on the identification of organic materials with micro-FTIR-ATR were examined for both replica and real wall painting samples.


FTIR-ATR Wall paintings Cross-sections Organic materials Sample preparation Cyclododecane 



At the Getty Conservation Institute, Martin de Fonjaudran would like to warmly thank Dr. Giacomo Chiari for access to the analytical facilities, Herant Khanjian for instruction in FTIR microscopy, and Julie Arslonoglu (now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) for suggesting the use of cyclododecane. Nevin would like to thank Sharon Cather and Dr. Aviva Burnstock (Courtauld Institute of Art) and Prof. Jaap Boon (FOM-AMOLF) for guidance during his MA research on FTIR-ATR, as well as Dr. Giancarlo Lanterna (Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence) for access to analytical facilities. Stephanie Bogin (Courtauld Institute of Art) and Emily Howe (private conservator) kindly provided samples for analysis, while Dr. Klaas Jan van den Berg (Instituut Collectie Nederland) perfomed Py-GC-MS analysis on samples from Valletta. This research formed part of the organic materials in wall paintings (OMWP) project, coordinated by the Getty Conservation Institute in collaboration with several conservation science laboratories, and the replica samples were made available by the project partner Laboratorio per l’Affresco Elena e Leonetto Tintori, Prato.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Charlotte Martin de Fonjaudran
    • 1
    Email author
  • Austin Nevin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Francesca Piqué
    • 3
  • Sharon Cather
    • 1
  1. 1.Conservation of Wall Painting DepartmentCourtauld Institute of Art,Somerset HouseLondonUK
  2. 2.Dipartimento di FisicaPolitecnico di MilanoMilanoItaly
  3. 3.The Getty Conservation InstituteLos AngelesUSA

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