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A mobile instrument for joint X-ray fluorescence and diffraction measurements on complex-shape Cultural Heritage objects

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We present the performances of a new mobile instrument allowing X-ray powder diffraction (XRPD) and fluorescence (XRF) measurements at the same point in reflection geometry. These two complementary techniques allow the identification of the chemical elements and crystalline phases without disrupting the Cultural Heritage (CH) objects’ integrity. Moreover, the joint use of a linear and 2D detector for XRPD allows to gain insight into the microstructure of the analyzed phases. After the description of the instrument, we report two examples of applications on CH objects with complex, non-planar shapes. First, we present the analysis of an unusual metallic cover found around the neck of a buried abbot recently discovered in the Saint-Médard-de-Soissons abbey (13th century). The complex-shape cover is made of several lead foils with areas showing evidences of soldered joints. 2D XRPD investigations revealed the surface carbonatation of the lead foils and two different microstructures of lead carbonate between the foils and the soldered joints with a brazing filler material made of Pb–Sn. In addition, we present the investigations of five late medieval polychrome sculptures with sophisticate relief decoration so-called “applied-brocade.” The instrument allowed to detect/confirm the presence of these multilayered decorations, to identify the associated phases and the main variations in stratigraphy between statues. These results show the benefits of the combined use of XRPD (1D-2D) and XRF and the importance of well-designed degrees of freedom of the instrument for in situ measurements of complex-shape objects.

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The manuscript has data included as electronic supplementary material. [Authors’ comment: The authors confirm that the data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article and its Supplementary material. Raw data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author, upon reasonable request.]


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This project has received financial support from the French National Research Agency in the framework of the Investissements d’Avenir program (ANR-15-IDEX-02, Cross Disciplinary Program Patrimalp) and from the CNRS through the MITI interdisciplinary program POLYCHROMETAL. The authors are grateful to Sophie Marin, heritage curator at Musée-château d’Annecy, for giving us access to the museum and Lorenzo Appolonia, Executive Emeritus scientific, for authorizing measures on the two Pietà. They also thank Sebastien Gosselin, Curator at the Musée savoisin in Chambéry (Savoie, France) for allowing studies on the SJB, StCr and Ma and Denis Defente for the abbot artefacts.

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Correspondence to Victor Poline.

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Focus Point on Scientific Research in Cultural Heritage 2022 Guest editors: L. Bellot-Gurlet, D. Bersani, A.-S. Le Hô, D. Neff, L. Robinet, A. Tournié.

Supplementary Information

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary information:

The supplementary information is presented XRPD patterns and Dino-Lite images that allowed us to propose SJB applied brocades stratigraphy. (pdf 5647KB)

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Poline, V., Bordet, P., Leynaud, O. et al. A mobile instrument for joint X-ray fluorescence and diffraction measurements on complex-shape Cultural Heritage objects. Eur. Phys. J. Plus 138, 239 (2023).

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