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Non-invasive Analysis of the Pigment Palette Used by the Renaissance Painter Sofonisba Anguissola

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The Future of Heritage Science and Technologies (Florence Heri-Tech 2022)


A multi-disciplinary project focusing on the non-invasive analysis of the early painting of Sofonisba Anguissola (1532–1625), “Self-portrait at an Easel” (Museum-Castle in Łańcut, Poland) was implemented out applying macro- and micro-analytical techniques. Technical photography using UV radiation and X-radiography were used along with macro-XRF to better understand the materials and techniques of this painting. Then, microscopic non-invasive techniques like single-point micro-XRF, micro-Raman and optical coherence tomography (OCT) were used as complementary methods to enhance the level of detail of results obtained with macro-techniques.

The pigments used by Sofonisba Anguissola include: vermilion, lead white, smalt with indigo, goethite with impurities like jarosite and anatase, vegetable and bone carbon black, a copper green pigment, and massicot. Macro-XRF technique detected the presence of Ca and Pb in the ground of the painting suggesting the application of an oil-gypsum ground layer with addition of lead white.

The palette used for “Self-portrait at an Easel” was compared to another painting from the same period, “The Game of Chess” (National Museum in Poznan, Poland) showing similarities in the techniques.

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The Authors wish to acknowledge Hanna Kunicka and Anna Michnikowska from National Museum in Poznań for additional consultations and valuable discussions.

Results were obtained within the MOLAB/ project of the Polish Research Consortium for Heritage Science co-financed by the National Institute for Museums and Public Collections of Poland (NIMOZ). Macro-XRF and OCT examinations were performed with use of the research infrastructure of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Modern Technologies NCU in Toruń.

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Correspondence to Anna Rygula .

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Rygula, A. et al. (2023). Non-invasive Analysis of the Pigment Palette Used by the Renaissance Painter Sofonisba Anguissola. In: Furferi, R., Governi, L., Volpe, Y., Gherardini, F., Seymour, K. (eds) The Future of Heritage Science and Technologies. Florence Heri-Tech 2022. Lecture Notes in Mechanical Engineering. Springer, Cham.

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