Classification of lead white pigments using synchrotron radiation micro X-ray diffraction
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Lead white pigment was used and synthesised for cosmetic and artistic purposes since the antiquity. Ancient texts describe the various recipes, and preparation processes as well as locations of production. In this study, we describe the results achieved on several paint samples taken from Matthias Grünewald’s works. Grünewald, who was active between 1503 and 1524, was a major painter at the beginning of the German Renaissance. Thanks to X-ray diffraction analysis using synchrotron radiation, it is possible to associate the composition of the paint samples with the masters ancient recipes. Different approaches were used, in reflection and transmission modes, directly on minute samples or on paint cross-sections embedded in resin. Characterisation of lead white pigments reveals variations in terms of composition, graininess and proportion of mineral phases. The present work enlightens the presence of lead white as differentiable main composition groups, which could be specific of a period, a know-how or a geographical origin. In this way, we aim at understanding the choices and the trading of pigments used to realise paintings during northern European Renaissance.
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