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Imaging the antique: unexpected Egyptian blue in Raphael’s Galatea by non-invasive mapping


Unexpected finding of Egyptian blue emerged in Raphael’s fresco Triumph of Galatea at Villa Farnesina, in Rome. This pigment is the oldest man-made blue, dating back to Egyptians who manufactured it first and whose occurrence was thought to be lost with Romans. Thanks to advanced imaging techniques it has been possible to non-invasively map its distribution throughout the frescoed surface and to obtain a non-invasive imaging stratigraphic analysis indicating whether pure painting layers, mixtures or overlapping occurred. Egyptian blue identification on Raphael’s Galatea is so far the earliest of sixteenth century, and could be the first step towards its tracking in Renaissance, demonstrating that non-invasive techniques are a mandatory step not only for materials identification but also for understanding art history and its dynamics.

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Conservator Dr. Virginia Lapenta, and the Staff of Villa Farnesina in Rome, are gratefully acknowledged by the authors.

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Correspondence to Chiara Anselmi.

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This contribution is a peer-reviewed version of a paper presented at the international meeting of the Non Destructive Techniques on Cultural Heritage (NDT-CH 2018) held October 12, 2018 in Buenos Aires (Argentina)S. I :Non-destructive techniques for cultural heritage

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Anselmi, C., Vagnini, M., Seccaroni, C. et al. Imaging the antique: unexpected Egyptian blue in Raphael’s Galatea by non-invasive mapping. Rend. Fis. Acc. Lincei 31, 913–917 (2020).

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  • Raphael
  • Egyptian blue
  • Macro X-ray fluorescence (MAXRF)
  • Red-induced luminescence (RIL)
  • Non-invasive analyses
  • Villa farnesina