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In situ analysis of mediaeval wall paintings: a challenge for mobile Raman spectroscopy

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Raman spectroscopy is an analytical technique, which is gaining attention as a molecular technique for the investigation of objects of art. Especially the non-destructive properties of the method make this application suitable for the in situ analysis of artefacts. However, although using mobile, fibre optics Raman instrumentation for this type of research seems to be straightforward, some practical obstacles may hamper the investigation. In this paper, pitfalls and solutions are described when applying a dedicated spectrometer to the analysis of mediaeval wall paintings. It is shown how some practical problems may be overcome, and the results of the analysis are presented. Although the mediaeval wall paintings from the chapel of the castle of Ponthoz are well-preserved, still some interesting degradation phenomena could be observed: the identification of a black degradation product, likely to be meta-cinnabar, a degradation product of the red pigment vermilion (HgS); the formation of gypsum (CaSO4·2H2O) as a weathering product of calcium carbonate (CaCO3); the observation of copper(II)hydroxychlorides.

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The authors wish to acknowledge the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen) for its financial support. The MArtA (Mobile Art Analyser) project is partially funded by means of the Flemish Government—Cultural Department (museumdecreet). P.V. is especially grateful to the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen) for his postdoctoral fellowship.

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Correspondence to Peter Vandenabeele.

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Vandenabeele, P., Lambert, K., Matthys, S. et al. In situ analysis of mediaeval wall paintings: a challenge for mobile Raman spectroscopy. Anal Bioanal Chem 383, 707–712 (2005).

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