A study of smalt and red lead discolouration in Antiphonitis wall paintings in Cyprus
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The present analytical study focuses on the degradation phenomena observed in fifteenth century wall paintings of the Christ Antiphonitis monastery in Cyprus. Examination of ten fragments by means of optical microscopy (OM), scanning electron microscopy (SEM/EDS), μRaman and FTIR spectroscopy revealed smalt discolouration and loss, and transformation of red lead from orange Pb3O4 to black PbO2. The chromatic changes have affected the aesthetic effect of the paintings insofar as these pigments were extensively used. The mechanisms of smalt weathering, i.e. leaching of alkali and formation of micro-cracks, are interpreted in relation to its chemical composition and to the aggressive environmental conditions. In addition, it is assumed that red lead degradation may have been induced not only by the effect of temperature, light and humidity but also by the presence of chlorine salts. These phenomena of pigment alteration and loss underline the unsuitability of smalt and minium on wall paintings, regardless of the painting technique (fresco, fresco-secco, secco).
PACS33.20.Ea 33.20.Fb 61.43.Fs 68.37.Hk 91.65.An
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