Characterization of porosity in a 19th century painting ground by synchrotron radiation X-ray tomography
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The study of the early oeuvre of the Swiss painter Cuno Amiet (1868–1961) has revealed that, up to 1907, many of his grounds were hand applied and are mainly composed of chalk, bound in protein. These grounds are not only lean and absorbent, but also, as Synchrotron radiation X-ray microtomography has shown, porous. Our approach to the characterization of pore structure and quantity, their connectivity, and homogeneity is based on image segmentation and application of a clustering algorithm to high-resolution X-ray tomographic data. The issues associated with the segmentation of the different components of a ground sample based on X-ray imaging data are discussed. The approach applied to a sample taken from “Portrait of Max Leu” (1899) by Amiet revealed the presence of three sublayers within the ground with distinct porosity features, which had not been observed optically in cross-section. The upper and lower layers are highly porous with important connectivity and thus prone to water uptake/storage. The middle layer however shows low and nonconnected porosity at the resolution level of the X-ray tomography images, so that few direct water absorption paths through the entire sample exist. The potential of the method to characterize porosity and to understand moisture-related issues in paint layer degradation are discussed.
The authors would like to thank the Kunstmuseum Solothurn for allowing the study of the painting Portrait of Max Leu (1898, Cuno Amiet) and the Swiss Re, Zurich for financial support. The authors would like to thank Karoline Beltinger for the insightful discussion into the technique of Cuno Amiet.
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