Applied Physics A

, Volume 107, Issue 1, pp 197–202 | Cite as

Micro-X-Ray Fluorescence and the Old Masters

Non-destructive in situ characterisation of the varnish of historical Low Countries stringed musical instruments
  • Francesco CarusoEmail author
  • Steven Saverwyns
  • Marina Van Bos
  • Delia Francesca Chillura Martino
  • Anne-Emmanuelle Ceulemans
  • Joris de Valck
  • Eugenio Caponetti


In recent years, a growing attention has been addressed to the study of the varnish from early musical instruments. The surfaces of nine historical Low Countries stringed musical instruments from the collection of the “Musical Instruments Museum” in Brussels were non-destructively analysed by in situ micro-X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy in dispersive mode. It was found that the main pigments dispersed in the varnish were iron- and manganese-based earths. The presence of a chromium-based pigment in one of the analysed instruments makes it appreciably different from the others. Other findings were discussed and compared with previously published results. The collection of such information plays a relevant role in the recovery of the applied formulations that is an interesting issue for conservators, luthiers and art historians.


Musical Instrument Silicon Drift Detector Cadmium Sulphide Lead Chromate Human Sweat 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors wish to thank Paolo Oliveri for his helpful comments to improve the manuscript and Fulvio Caruso for his help in editing Fig. 4. Francesco Caruso acknowledges an Erasmus LLP Placement grant allowing him to spend a three months and a half internship at the KIK-IRPA.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francesco Caruso
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
    Email author
  • Steven Saverwyns
    • 2
  • Marina Van Bos
    • 2
  • Delia Francesca Chillura Martino
    • 1
  • Anne-Emmanuelle Ceulemans
    • 3
  • Joris de Valck
    • 3
  • Eugenio Caponetti
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Chimica “Stanislao Cannizzaro”Università degli Studi di PalermoPalermoItaly
  2. 2.Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA)BrusselsBelgium
  3. 3.Musical Instruments MuseumBrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.Institut für Baustoffe (IfB)ETH ZürichZurichSwitzerland

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