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Characterisation of foxing stains in eighteenth to nineteenth century drawings using non-destructive techniques


The reddish-brown, brown or yellowish stains of circular or irregular shape known as foxing spots have been fully described in conservation literature but still, this phenomenon does not find any scientific agreement since many hypotheses have been raised concerning their origin. In this work a contribution to foxing definition not only focussed on its appearance but also reported on its chemical information. For this purpose foxing stains present in drawings from two Portuguese artists dated from the eighteenth to nineteenth centuries were observed under ultra-violet light and optical microscope and analysed by three non-invasive spectroscopy techniques. The observations carried out on the stains provided information on their surface morphology. The use of energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence revealed a variation on the elemental content between foxing and paper region. Although the results from X-ray diffraction analysis showed no signs of cellulose degradation in foxing stains, Fourier-transformed infrared analysis revealed the presence of oxide groups. Both the information on the chemical nature and surface morphology of the stains achieved in this study will contribute to increase foxing formation information and develop future protocols for conservation purposes.

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This work was funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology FCT-SFRH/BD/30259/2006 and PTDC/71998/2006 (Morphological characterisation of paper stains and treatment methodologies).

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Correspondence to M. L. Carvalho.

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Manso, M., Pessanha, S., Figueira, F. et al. Characterisation of foxing stains in eighteenth to nineteenth century drawings using non-destructive techniques. Anal Bioanal Chem 395, 2029–2036 (2009).

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  • Foxing
  • XRD
  • FTIR
  • Morphological characterisation