Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 392, Issue 1–2, pp 65–76 | Cite as

Attenuated total reflection micro FTIR characterisation of pigment–binder interaction in reconstructed paint films

  • R. Mazzeo
  • S. Prati
  • M. Quaranta
  • E. Joseph
  • E. Kendix
  • M. Galeotti
Original Paper


The interaction of pigments and binding media may result in the production of metal soaps on the surface of paintings which modifies their visible appearance and state of conservation. To characterise more fully the metal soaps found on paintings, several historically accurate oil and egg yolk tempera paint reconstructions made with different pigments and naturally aged for 10 years were submitted to attenuated total reflectance Fourier transform infrared (ATR FTIR) microspectroscopic analyses. Standard metal palmitates were synthesised and their ATR spectra recorded in order to help the identification of metal soaps. Among the different lead-based pigments, red lead and litharge seemed to produce a larger amount of carboxylates compared with lead white, Naples yellow and lead tin yellow paints. Oil and egg tempera litharge and red lead paints appeared to be degraded into lead carbonate, a phenomenon which has been observed for the first time. The formation of metal soaps was confirmed on both oil and egg tempera paints based on zinc, manganese and copper and in particular on azurite paints. ATR mapping analyses showed how the areas where copper carboxylates were present coincided with those in which azurite was converted into malachite. Furthermore, the key role played by manganese in the production of metals soaps on burnt and raw sienna and burnt and raw umber paints has been observed for the first time. The formation of copper, lead, manganese, cadmium and zinc metal soaps was also identified on egg tempera paint reconstructions even though, in this case, the overlapping of the spectral region of the amide II band with that of metal carboxylates made their identification difficult.


FTIR false colour plot of the azurite distribution on a selected area of the azurite oil paint reconstruction


Metal soaps Binding media Oil binder Egg tempera binder Micro ATR FTIR Paintings 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Mazzeo
    • 1
  • S. Prati
    • 1
  • M. Quaranta
    • 2
  • E. Joseph
    • 1
  • E. Kendix
    • 1
  • M. Galeotti
    • 3
  1. 1.Microchemistry and Microscopy Art Diagnostic LaboratoryUniversity of BolognaRavennaItaly
  2. 2.Department of Cultural HeritageUniversity of IasiIasiRomania
  3. 3.Laboratorio ScientificoOpificio delle Pietre DureFirenzeItaly

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