Uncover the mantle: rediscovering Gregório Lopes palette and technique with a study on the painting “Mater Misericordiae”

Abstract

Gregório Lopes (c. 1490–1550) was one of the most prominent painters of the renaissance and Mannerism in Portugal. The painting “Mater Misericordiae” made for the Sesimbra Holy House of Mercy, circa 1535–1538, is one of the most significant works of the artist, and his only painting on this theme, being also one of the most significant Portuguese paintings of sixteenth century. The recent restoration provided the possibility to study materially the painting for the first time, with a multianalytical methodology incorporating portable energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy–energy-dispersive spectroscopy, micro-X-ray diffraction, micro-Raman spectroscopy and high-performance liquid chromatography coupled to diode array and mass spectrometry detectors. The analytical study was complemented by infrared reflectography, allowing the study of the underdrawing technique and also by dendrochronology to confirm the date of the wooden panels (1535–1538). The results of this study were compared with previous ones on the painter’s workshop, and significant differences and similitudes were found in the materials and techniques used.

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Acknowledgments

The authors acknowledge Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia for financial support (Project PTDC/HIS-ARQ/117099/2010, Post-doc Grants SFRH/BPD/103315/2014 and SFRH/BPD/70031/2010) through program QREN-POPH-typology 4.1., co-participated by the Social European Fund (FSE) and MCTES National Fund and also wish to acknowledge Dr. Luís Dias for the assistance at the SEM–EDS and Cristina Conceição at the Núcleo Museológico da Capela do Espírito Santo dos Mareantes de Sesimbra.

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Correspondence to Marta Manso.

Electronic supplementary material

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ESM1

a) Detail of the Virgin’s crown b) detail of the Emperor’s crown (photograph: Maria J. Francisco) (JPEG 3020 kb)

ESM2

Results obtained for sample 45-15-18 a) OM image of underdrawing in angel’s tunic; b) SEM–EDS map obtained for C and Pb. The size of the C grains suggests the presence of vegetable charcoal; c) map of C obtained by SEM–EDS indicating the presence of organic components in the drawing layer (JPEG 1993 kb)

ESM3

a) Detail of the Virgin’s face evidencing final painted areas in the eyes and eyebrows; b)macro of print that inspired the painting, made to the frontispiece of the Lisbon Mercy Brotherhood’s commitment; c) frontispiece of the Lisbon Mercy Brotherhood’s commitment printed in 1516 17 (JPEG 4717 kb)

ESM4

a) OM image of sample 45-15-4 from sky light showing a first white layer over the ground overlapped by a clear blue; b) OM image of sample 45-15-5 sky shadow showing a first white layer over the ground overlapped by a dark blue; c) SEM–EDS map of the same sample obtained for C, Cu and Pb where C suggests the presence of animal charcoal and Pb suggests the presence lead white and Cu the occurrence of azurite (JPEG 2113 kb)

ESM5

OM image of sample 45-15-7 from the cardinal red mantle evidencing the bigger absorption of the oil by the ground layer (JPEG 1046 kb)

ESM6

a) OM image of sample 45-15-34 of carnation of the Virgin’s neck; b) combined map of elemental analysis by SEM–EDS of the same sample with the elements Al, Si, Ca and Hg where we can observe bigger grains of Hg in the original finishing layer, being the superficial layer a repaint; c) combined map of elemental analysis by SEM–EDS of the same sample with the elements S and Ca showing the remains of Ca grains, calcite, over the original carnation layer (JPEG 2381 kb)

ESM7

a) OM image of sample 45-15-9 of the Emperor’s mantle with a first bright red layer overlapped by three other darker organic layers; b) combined map of elemental analysis by SEM–EDS of the same sample with the elements C, Al, Ca and Pb where we can observe Al concentrated in the first layer, Ca and Pb mainly located in the second layer and the two overlapped organic layers; c) combined map of elemental analysis by SEM–EDS of the same sample with the elements S, Ca and Hg showing the distribution of Hg in fist and second layers and the concentration of S-Ca and Ca in the second layer (JPEG 2632 kb)

ESM8

a) OM image of sample 45-15-11 green color from the king’s mantle showing a first black layer over the ground overlapped by a white greenish layer; b) combined map of elemental analysis by SEM-EDS of the same sample with the elements C and Cu, Sn and Pb where C is the main element in bigger grains, suggesting the presence of vegetable charcoal, and Pb suggests the presence lead white and Sn–Pb suggesting the occurrence of lead–tin yellow; c) map of elemental analysis by SEM–EDS of the same sample with the element C showing the presence of organic components in the original layers (JPEG 2416 kb)

ESM9

a) OM image of sample 45-15-43 Purple color of the King’s tunic showing a first yellow layer over the ground overlapped by an organic red brownish layer superimposed by a mixture of organic dye in a white matrix; b) combined map of elemental analysis by SEM–EDS of the same sample with the elements C and Ca, Fe and Pb where C suggests the presence of organic dyes and Pb suggests the presence lead white and Ca suggesting the occurrence of Calcite grains over the organic layer; c) macro of minuscule brushed yellow spots in the light areas imitating a golden finishing of the cloth; d) macro of other finishing detail (JPEG 6006 kb)

ESM10

a) Representation of the golden pope’s crosier; b) OM image of sample 45-15-31 showing a first brown layer over the ground overlapped by a white/yellow layer; c) combined map of elemental analysis by SEM–EDS of the same sample with the elements Fe, Sn, Pb and Cr, where Fe comes as a first layer and Pb indicates the presence lead white and Sn–Pb suggesting the occurrence of lead–tin yellow, being the Cr upper layer a repaint (JPEG 2452 kb)

ESM11

a) Minute golden object representations, such as the Empress’ crown were made with lead tin yellow and lead white in a thick layer for the light areas, made over a previous goethite (Fe) layer in the shadow areas; b) detail of pope’s crosier; c) detail of the Emperor’s crown (JPEG 2464 kb)

ESM12

a) Minute representations, such as a pearl of the pope’s mantle; b) detail of pope’s mantle tassel; c) detail of the same pope’s mantle tassel (JPEG 2816 kb)

ESM13

a) Detail of a “putti” eye, in the base of the pedestal where is visible the first black layer under the white used to model the images; b) detail of the same putty ear taking advantage of the under black layer; c) detail of the same black layer in a worn out area under the gray finishing layer (JPEG 2852 kb)

ESM14

a) OM image of sample 45-15-21 black writing showing a first white layer over the ground overlapped by a an organic black layer superimposed by other layer of black repaint; b) combined map of elemental analysis by SEM–EDS of the same sample with the elements C, P Ca and Pb where C suggests the presence of organic dyes and Pb suggests the presence lead white and Ca suggesting the occurrence of Calcite grains mixed in the first organic layer, having a second organic layer mainly composed by an organic matrix without visible grains where point 1 marks the position of the spectrum analysis; c) EDS spectrum of the analysis made in point 1 with the elements Na, Si, Pb, Al and Mg, with trace elements of K suggesting the presence of an organic dyestuff (JPEG 2642 kb)

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Antunes, V., Candeias, A., Oliveira, M.J. et al. Uncover the mantle: rediscovering Gregório Lopes palette and technique with a study on the painting “Mater Misericordiae”. Appl. Phys. A 122, 965 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00339-016-0481-1

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Keywords

  • Ground Layer
  • Lead White
  • Cochineal
  • Cerussite
  • Priming Layer