Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry

, Volume 402, Issue 6, pp 2183–2193 | Cite as

Physico-chemical characterization of protein–pigment interactions in tempera paint reconstructions: casein/cinnabar and albumin/cinnabar

  • Celia Duce
  • Lisa Ghezzi
  • Massimo Onor
  • Ilaria Bonaduce
  • Maria Perla Colombini
  • Maria Rosaria Tine’
  • Emilia Bramanti
Original Paper


In this work, we characterized paint reconstructions using ovalbumin and casein as binders, and cinnabar (HgS) as a pigment, before and after artificial ageing. Egg and casein are common paint binders that were used historically in the technique of tempera painting. Despite extensive research on the identification of proteinaceous binders in paintings, there is a substantial lack of knowledge regarding the ageing pathway of their protein content, and their chemical interaction with inorganic pigments. Thermogravimetric analysis, infrared spectroscopy and size-exclusion chromatography (SEC) were used to reveal the physico-chemical processes involved in the ageing of proteins in paintings. Taken together, the three techniques highlighted that proteins are subject to both cross-linking and hydrolysis upon ageing, and to a lesser extent, to oxidation of the side chains. Mercury–protein interactions were also revealed using a cold vapour generation atomic fluorescence spectrometer mercury-specific detector coupled to SEC. The study clearly showed that HgS forms stable complexes with proteins and acts as a sensitizer in cross-linking, hydrolysis and oxidation.


A multi-techinque approach to the study of protein/cinnabar tempera paint recontructions: thermogravimetric analysis, Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy and size exclusion chromatography


Ovalbumin Casein Cinnabar Protein–pigment interaction Cultural heritage Size-exclusion chromatography Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy Thermogravimetric analysis 

Supplementary material

216_2011_5684_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (478 kb)
ESM 1 (PDF 477 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Celia Duce
    • 1
  • Lisa Ghezzi
    • 1
  • Massimo Onor
    • 2
  • Ilaria Bonaduce
    • 1
  • Maria Perla Colombini
    • 1
  • Maria Rosaria Tine’
    • 1
  • Emilia Bramanti
    • 2
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Chimica e Chimica IndustrialePisaItaly
  2. 2.National Research Council of Italy, C.N.R., Istituto di Chimica dei Composti Organo Metallici-ICCOM-UOS PisaPisaItaly

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