First insights into Chinese reverse glass paintings gained by non-invasive spectroscopic analysis—tracing a cultural dialogue

  • Simon StegerEmail author
  • Diana Oesterle
  • Rupprecht MayerEmail author
  • Oliver Hahn
  • Simone Bretz
  • Gisela Geiger
Original Paper


This work presents a technical investigation of two Chinese reverse glass paintings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A multi-analytical, non-invasive approach (X-ray fluorescence (XRF), diffuse reflectance infrared Fourier transform spectroscopy (DRIFTS), Raman spectroscopy) was used to identify the pigments and classify the binding media. The results reveal a combined use of traditional Chinese and imported European materials. Several pigments like cinnabar, lead white, orpiment, carbon black and copper-arsenic green (probably emerald green) were found in both paintings; red lead, artificial ultramarine blue, Prussian blue and ochre appear in at least one of the paintings. The proof of limewash (calcite and small amounts of portlandite) as a backing layer in Yingying and Hongniang indicates that clamshell white was also used for reverse glass paintings. Drying oil was classified as a binding media in most areas of both paintings. However, the orange background of The Archer yielded prominent bands of both proteinaceous and fatty binder.


Reverse glass painting Non-invasive analysis Pigment identification XRF Raman spectroscopy DRIFTS Limewash Emerald green 



We would like to thank Sebastian Simon and Birgit Meng for providing us reference material and background information on limewash and portlandite. We are grateful to Heike Stege for helpful comments on the manuscript.

Funding information

The project “Hinterglasmalerei als Technik der Klassischen Moderne 1905–1955” is funded by the Volkswagen-Stiftung, Hannover “Forschung in Museen” reference 89921.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM), Division 4.5BerlinGermany
  2. 2.Museum Penzberg - Sammlung Campendonk, Am Museum 1PenzbergGermany
  3. 3.LMU Munich, Institute of Art HistoryMunichGermany
  4. 4.SinologistBurghausenGermany
  5. 5.Centre for the Study of Manuscript CulturesUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany
  6. 6.Conservator for Reverse Paintings on GlassGarmisch-PartenkirchenGermany

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