A multi-analytical study of the fifteenth century mural paintings of the Batalha Monastery (Portugal) in view of their conservation
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The systematic characterization of the painting’s palette and technique applied on the execution of the mural paintings of the Batalha Monastery (Batalha, Leiria, Portugal) is presented. These are the oldest mural paintings known in Portugal (apart from Roman frescoes) and represent the beginning of an artistic Portuguese tradition that continues until the nineteenth century. The aim of the study was to identify for the first time by adopting a multi-analytical physico-chemical approach of the pigments, binder, and alteration products (white veils, crusts, and pigment alteration) of these unique works of arts in order not only to better understand the painting technique, but also to support a conservation-restoration intervention that took place from April to August 2010.
Micro-sampling of paint layers was performed on representative areas of the paintings. The characterization of the pigments and binders was carried out by microscopy and microanalysis of cross sections using optical microscopy, scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (SEM-EDS), micro-FTIR, and micro X-ray diffraction.
The combined analysis of the paintings allowed the identification of the painting’s palette: Vermillion (HgS) and red ochre for the reds, yellow ochres for the yellows, green earths and malachite for the greens, azurite for the blues, and carbon for the blacks. The use of the pigment is dependent of the motive painted while the most expensive materials were used in the most important iconographic motives.
Alteration of malachite was identified in darkened layers in green areas of the paintings. White veil areas on the surface of the paintings were identified as calcite from precipitation/dissolution processes due to water run-off on the sacristy dome ceiling and walls.
KeywordsMalachite Green Malachite Paint Layer Cinnabar Green Pigment
The authors wish to acknowledge the Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (Grant SFRH/BD/66068/2009) and the EEA Grants for financial support. J.M. De Oliveira, General Directorate for Cultural Heritage is also gratefully acknowledged for helpful discussions and practical support.
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