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The use of minerals as pigments in art and on archaeological objects, from the use of ochre in prehistoric caves to the elaborate transformation and use in ancient and modern artist palettes, is reviewed in this chapter.

Starting from the purposes of the study of pigments, the chapter presents current trends in the study of coloured minerals in cultural heritage science. It emphasizes through the use of case studies the potential of these minerals in terms of information about former ways of life and especially the artistic techniques employed in ancient times.

This information is gained through knowledge of geological and physicochemical processes acting on minerals and on artefacts produced by human activities. Some new trends are presented as the state of the art of how to master most of the methods and techniques useful for investigating our common cultural heritage.

1. Introduction

Besides ancient glasses, ceramics and metals, mineral pigments are among the most studied materials in cultural heritage sciences. This is due to the fact that pigments play a crucial role in cultural heritage because of the wide colour palette they can provide. Beautiful colours are very decorative and persist over very long time scales so that they can even be preserved on objects dating back to the Stone Age. The available paint palette for artists evolved continuously from the use of coloured minerals or other naturally available materials such as charcoal to more elaborated paint palettes including synthetic pigments and colourants in modern and contemporaneous times. Today pigments and colourants, or mixtures of them, of nearly every perceptible hue are available.

Pigments have been used in paintings and drawings as well as to decorate various decorative objects, walls and outdoor architectural elements. From prehistoric times there are polychrome painted caves, painted stone or osseous tools. From later on, coloured glasses and glazed ceramics, illuminated manuscripts, drawings on parchment or paper as well as paintings on wooden supports such as the beautiful Fayoum portraits (Fig, 1; Röhrs et al., 2017) are found. Today many different canvases are used for paintings with pigments in contemporaneous art.

Figure 1.

Mummy portrait of a young woman, with an enlarged section and locations of the analysis (ANT Iinv. No. 31161,48). © Rathgen-Forschungslabor/Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 1.

Mummy portrait of a young woman, with an enlarged section and locations of the analysis (ANT Iinv. No. 31161,48). © Rathgen-Forschungslabor/Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Coloured decorations are often associated with strong symbolic meanings as humans make them on purpose. Therefore, the pigments and colourants used can be regarded as indicators of human thinking and technical choices. The choice of materials used for decorating art works is driven largely by the availability but also by the price of the raw materials. Some pigments, such as lapis lazuli and purple were highly valued in ancient times because natural blue and purple pigments were rare. Their use in art objects is thus an indicator of the social status of the commissioner and/or owner. All these reasons explain why the study of ancient pigments is of fundamental interest when studying ancient societies. A wealth of information can be gained from their study. Pigments hold in their chemical and mineralogical characteristics information that can be used to improve understanding of the artistic and archaeological purposes, socio-economical changes and societal status of objects because it is possible, for instance, to trace the materials chosen and the trading of particular pigments.

In the study of synthetic pigments, technological know-how and transfer can be obtained. Their date of production and introduction to the artistic market can be used as a terminus ante quem, meaning an indirect dating criterion for objects that contain a particular pigment and thus providing possible hints for confirming or denying the authenticity of objects. Alteration phenomena leading, for example, to fading or discolouration of sensitive pigments can be studied as well as strategies for conservation and restoration.

In the current chapter, the use of natural pigments in artistic and archaeological contexts from prehistory to contemporary times and their chemistry and mineralogy will be reviewed. Chemical and mineralogical analyses of pigments allow classification as a function of their properties, period of use, local knowledge, or geographical origin. The investigative methods range from classical to cutting-edge techniques: techniques based on sampling, techniques used in the field or on museum collections, techniques providing information at the micro and nanoscales as well as those allowing chemical imaging in the laboratory. Imaging devices used in the field are reviewed briefly. For more detailed information about analytical techniques the reader is referred to appropriate references such as e.g. Calligaro et al., 2004; Dik et al., 2008; Cotte et al., 2009a, 2010; Bertrand et al., 2012; Alfeld and Broekaert 2013; Reiche and Chalmin 2014; Alfeld and de Viguerie 2017.

Some case studies are discussed in order to illustrate the potential information gained from the scientific investigation of mineral pigments in the art-historical and archaeological contexts. As an example the composition and properties of Palaeolithic drawings in cave sites of southern France are presented. Furthermore, the study of art technology and the investigation of alteration phenomena of central Asian wall paintings in grottoes are quoted. Investigation and imaging of the chemical composition and layered structure of oil paintings are highlighted in a study of a Courbet painting with two hidden compositions.

2. Terminological definitions

2.1. Definition of minerals, pigments and colourants

Mineral pigments are referred to as naturally occurring coloured minerals. Mineralogically they are defined by their chemical, structural and physical properties. In the context of cultural heritage science the characteristic of outstanding importance is colour. That is the obvious reason why such minerals have been used for decorating various objects. They are generally crystalline and of inorganic origin although coloured biominerals such as corals, shells or ivory do exist. To name a few examples of typical minerals from heritage contexts, there are yellow orpiment, yellow goethite, red hematite, blue lapis lazuli, green malachite and black manganese oxides. In a wider sense synthetic coloured compounds can also be considered as ‘mineral’ pigments because they are all composed of inorganic constituents, although they are not minerals sensu stricto. Examples of synthetic inorganic pigments are Egyptian blue and Han purple or pigments composed of different constituents such as cobalt violet (CoO × Al2O3) introduced in 1775. There are also a few composite (hybrid) pigments such as Maya blue that are formed by a mineral (palygorskite) and an organic constituent (indigo) trapped in the clay crystal structure. In this chapter the focus is on the presentation of natural pigments. The reader is referred to the following references for more information on ancient and new synthetic pigments: Berke (2002, 2004, 2007), Hahn et al. (2006), Dejoie et al. (2010).

Colourants are defined here as coloured organic compounds that can be crystalline or amorphous, e.g. indigo or carmine.

2.2. Definition of paints

Polychrome surfaces or paintings can be created by dispersing pigments in a liquid binding medium on the surface forming so-called paint layers after drying. The layers vary in thickness, composition and properties as a function of the application technique, the binding medium and the type of support onto which they are applied. Liquid binding media, for example, may be drying oil, Arabic gum or egg white. Fillers may be added to paint; such fillers produce special drying or optical effects.

Generally, several superimposed paint layers create a ‘stratigraphy’ of polychrome surfaces and painting. Only particular mural paintings called frescos or prehistoric rock art figures are painted in one layer without binder as the lime mortar or the calcareous rock hold the pigments after drying. The nature and thickness of the ‘stratigraphic’ system can be very variable and range from a few tens of microns up to 1 mm, depending on the application technique and on the cultural and regional contexts.

2.3. Definition of colour

Because there are various ways of describing colours and coloured materials it is important to clarify the vocabulary used in this chapter. This is crucial because standardization of colour terminology did not exist in ancient times, meaning for instance that a mineral used to produce a coloured surface could show different hues and be named differently as a function of the context. Therefore, mineral colour alone is not a diagnostic feature, i.e. different minerals or mixtures may show almost the same visible colour, and the same mineral can yield very different colours depending on chemistry, structure, defects or particle size. In addition, the physical effects that produce a colour are numerous and depend on the texture and nature of the material to which the colour is applied or by which the pigments are applied. Thus, the same pigment or colourant can produce slightly different hues. Some secondary compounds can also nuance the hue of a colour.

Because of terminological complexity, the use of defined standards and internationally recognized systems as objective guidelines is crucial when approaching coloured materials of our cultural heritage. We can cite systems such as the NCS – Natural Colour Systemgraphic of the Scandinavian Colour Institute AB or the Munsell colour system. The Munsell colour system was created by Albert H. Munsell (Munsell, 1912) and corresponds to a colour space based on three colour dimensions: hue, value (lightness) and chroma (colour purity). Hunter introduced another mathematical terminology in 1948, the Lab colour space (Sève, 2009). It describes all perceivable colours in three dimensions. L in Lab stands for lightness as well as the letters a and b for the colour extremes green–red and blue–yellow. Hunter Lab coordinates are the result of a square root transformation of colour data. In 1976 the CIEL*a*b* or CIELAB (Sève, 2009) system was created by a cube root transformation of the CIE XYZ colour data and represents an objective way of characterizing colours (Schelper et al., 2016). The Lab colour space exceeds the complete subset of colours of the red-green-blue (RGB) model based on the human trichromacy and on the three cone cell types that respond to three bands of light: red, green and blue. It also exceeds the CMYK colour model, which is a subtractive colour system based on four colour dimensions often used in colour reproduction. In contrast to the later models the Lab model is device independent. Such a scientific approach enables all parameters which play a role in colour creation (such as the nature of colour origin, the presence of one or several colouring agents or other optical effects of the object surface) to be taken into account correctly. Here in this chapter, the term colour is used as a definition of a hue observed on objects.

2.4. Relevant archaeological and historical mineral pigments

Mineral pigments are well known in art-historical and archaeological contexts, as they are, with a few exceptions, very stable against alteration due to temperature, climatic changes, light and other environmental factors such as air pollution, so that they can be recognised even on very ancient objects.

A palette of a hundred different types of mineral, inorganic or hybrid pigments can be defined. They can be characterized by their colour, structure, grain size, geographical origin and region of use as well as by their type of use and their natural or synthetic origin (Eastaugh, 2004).

Minerals are divided into ten major chemical classes. Only a few coloured pigments such as lapis lazuli belong to the silicate class that represents >90% of minerals. Most pigments are oxides or mixed (hybrid) mineral compounds. This is linked to the fact that transition metal ions form coloured materials with oxides through optical absorption effects explained by crystal or ligand field splitting theory (Burns, 1993).

Selected common mineral pigments with their chemical composition or crystallo-graphic phase may be identified unambiguously (Table 1). Indeed, some pigments show the same or a very similar chemical composition and can only be differentiated through identification of their mineralogical phases.

Table 1.

Selected mineral pigments of archaeological and art-historical relevance with the chemical formula of the colouring compound and, in the case of synthetic pigments, the date of production.

Colour and mineral classes with chemical formula and first date of use or invention in parenthesesWhiteYellowOrangeRedVioletGreenBlueBrown/black
Silicates     Egyptian Green Cu-glassLazurite/Lapis Lazuli Na8-10Al6Si6O24S2-4fff Cuprorivaite/Egyptian blue CaCuSi4O10 Smalt Co-glass Chrysocolla Cu2–xAlx (H2–xSi2O5)(OH)4)·nH2O (x<1) Aerinite 
Sulfides Orpiment As2S3 Cadmium Yellow (1825) cadmium sulfide CdS, C.I. Pigment Yellow 37Cadmium sulfoselenide CdS + CdSe. Depending on the S/Se ratio, C.I. Pigment Orange 20Realgar As2S3 Cinnabar HgS Zinc cadmium sulfide, CdS + ZnS, C.I. Pigment Yellow 35  
  Greenokite (Ca4(Al,-Fe,Mg)10- Si12O35(OH)12CO3·-12H2O) Cadmium red (Cadmium sulfoselenide) (1910) CdS + CdSe Depending on the S/Se ratio, C.I. Pigment Red 108    
oxides and hydroxidesAnastase (1920) TiO2 Rutile (1938) TiO2 Antimony white (1920) senarmontite Sb2O3 Zinc white (1835) zincite ZnOGoethite / yellow ochre α-FeOOH Lead-tin yellow Pb2SnO4 (type I)PbSnO3 (type II) Massicot PbO Haematite/red ochre Fe2O3 Minium Pb3O4 Viridian Cr2O3.nH2O Paolo Veronese Green, Chrome green (1809) Atacamite / Paratacamite Cu2(OH)3Cl Magnetite (Prehistory?/1920?) Fe3O4 Maghemite γ-Fe2O3 Manganese oxides and hydroxides (bixbyite, braunite, hausmannite, hollandite, polianite, pyrolusite, romanechite…) MnO2+Mn2O3 Jacobsite, MnFe2O4 Antimony black Sb2O3 Manganese and iron oxides (Mn, Fe)3O4 Cobalt oxide Co2O3
carbonatesChalk CaCO3 Lead white 2PbCO3Pb(OH)2 Huntite Mg3Ca(CO3)4    Malachite CuCO3(OH)2Azurite Cu(CO3)2Cu(OH)2 
nitrates Cobalt yellow (1848) K3[Co(NO2)6nH2OCobalt nitrate Co(NO3)2·6H2O     
sulfatesGypsum CaSO4·2H2O Hemihydrate/bassanite/plaster of Paris CaSO4·0.5H2O Anhydrite CaSO4 Permanent white (1830) baryte BaSO4 apatite ivory or bone white Ca5(PO4)3OH zinc phosphate Zn3(PO4)2    Posnjakite Cu(SO4)  
Phosphates     Bone turquoise or odontolite Mn5+ doped apatite Ca5(PO4)3OH Vivianite Fe3(PO4) 8(H2O)  
arsenite     Scheele’s Green copper hydrogen arsenite CuHAsO3 (1775)  
organic compounds     Verdigris Cu(CH3COO)2·nCu(OH)2Prussian blue (1704) Fe4[Fe(CN)6]3 Indigo Indigotine C16H10N2O2Carbon Graphite C
mixed / hybrid compoundsLithopone (1853) ZnO + BaSO4Naples Yellow Pb(SbO3)2/Pb3(SbO4)2 Chrome yellow (1797) 2PbSO4·PbCrO4 Maya Yellow dehydro-indigo (indigoides) associated with palygorskite (Mg,Al)2-Si4O10(OH)·4(H2O) crocoite chrome red (1809) PbCrO4·Pb(OH)2Cobalt violet (1775) CoO·Al2O3Cobalt green (1780) CoO·5ZnO Emerald green (1814) Cu(CH3COO)2·3Cu(AsO2)2 Cadmium green (Cadmium yellow CdS + viridian Cr2O3.nH2OManganese blue BaSO4·Ba(MnO4)2 Maya Blue indigo-palygorskite (Mg,Al)2 Si4O10(OH)·4(H2O)Ivory or bone black C + Ca5(PO4)3OH (apatite)
Colour and mineral classes with chemical formula and first date of use or invention in parenthesesWhiteYellowOrangeRedVioletGreenBlueBrown/black
Silicates     Egyptian Green Cu-glassLazurite/Lapis Lazuli Na8-10Al6Si6O24S2-4fff Cuprorivaite/Egyptian blue CaCuSi4O10 Smalt Co-glass Chrysocolla Cu2–xAlx (H2–xSi2O5)(OH)4)·nH2O (x<1) Aerinite 
Sulfides Orpiment As2S3 Cadmium Yellow (1825) cadmium sulfide CdS, C.I. Pigment Yellow 37Cadmium sulfoselenide CdS + CdSe. Depending on the S/Se ratio, C.I. Pigment Orange 20Realgar As2S3 Cinnabar HgS Zinc cadmium sulfide, CdS + ZnS, C.I. Pigment Yellow 35  
  Greenokite (Ca4(Al,-Fe,Mg)10- Si12O35(OH)12CO3·-12H2O) Cadmium red (Cadmium sulfoselenide) (1910) CdS + CdSe Depending on the S/Se ratio, C.I. Pigment Red 108    
oxides and hydroxidesAnastase (1920) TiO2 Rutile (1938) TiO2 Antimony white (1920) senarmontite Sb2O3 Zinc white (1835) zincite ZnOGoethite / yellow ochre α-FeOOH Lead-tin yellow Pb2SnO4 (type I)PbSnO3 (type II) Massicot PbO Haematite/red ochre Fe2O3 Minium Pb3O4 Viridian Cr2O3.nH2O Paolo Veronese Green, Chrome green (1809) Atacamite / Paratacamite Cu2(OH)3Cl Magnetite (Prehistory?/1920?) Fe3O4 Maghemite γ-Fe2O3 Manganese oxides and hydroxides (bixbyite, braunite, hausmannite, hollandite, polianite, pyrolusite, romanechite…) MnO2+Mn2O3 Jacobsite, MnFe2O4 Antimony black Sb2O3 Manganese and iron oxides (Mn, Fe)3O4 Cobalt oxide Co2O3
carbonatesChalk CaCO3 Lead white 2PbCO3Pb(OH)2 Huntite Mg3Ca(CO3)4    Malachite CuCO3(OH)2Azurite Cu(CO3)2Cu(OH)2 
nitrates Cobalt yellow (1848) K3[Co(NO2)6nH2OCobalt nitrate Co(NO3)2·6H2O     
sulfatesGypsum CaSO4·2H2O Hemihydrate/bassanite/plaster of Paris CaSO4·0.5H2O Anhydrite CaSO4 Permanent white (1830) baryte BaSO4 apatite ivory or bone white Ca5(PO4)3OH zinc phosphate Zn3(PO4)2    Posnjakite Cu(SO4)  
Phosphates     Bone turquoise or odontolite Mn5+ doped apatite Ca5(PO4)3OH Vivianite Fe3(PO4) 8(H2O)  
arsenite     Scheele’s Green copper hydrogen arsenite CuHAsO3 (1775)  
organic compounds     Verdigris Cu(CH3COO)2·nCu(OH)2Prussian blue (1704) Fe4[Fe(CN)6]3 Indigo Indigotine C16H10N2O2Carbon Graphite C
mixed / hybrid compoundsLithopone (1853) ZnO + BaSO4Naples Yellow Pb(SbO3)2/Pb3(SbO4)2 Chrome yellow (1797) 2PbSO4·PbCrO4 Maya Yellow dehydro-indigo (indigoides) associated with palygorskite (Mg,Al)2-Si4O10(OH)·4(H2O) crocoite chrome red (1809) PbCrO4·Pb(OH)2Cobalt violet (1775) CoO·Al2O3Cobalt green (1780) CoO·5ZnO Emerald green (1814) Cu(CH3COO)2·3Cu(AsO2)2 Cadmium green (Cadmium yellow CdS + viridian Cr2O3.nH2OManganese blue BaSO4·Ba(MnO4)2 Maya Blue indigo-palygorskite (Mg,Al)2 Si4O10(OH)·4(H2O)Ivory or bone black C + Ca5(PO4)3OH (apatite)

3. A general approach for analysing mineral pigments

Many archaeometric and art technological studies emphasize the importance of establishing analytical strategies appropriately adapted to the study of cultural heritage materials. The analysis of mineral pigments follows the same integrated reasoning. It is crucial to start the investigation with the question to be answered and to adapt the analytical strategy to the type of object, the sampling options and the specificity and rarity of the object. In addition, the heterogeneity and state of preservation of cultural heritage materials need to be taken into account. Therefore, it is also of utmost importance to study these materials within their context so as to be able to select representative material and to obtain conclusive results from the selected analytical methods.

Recent technical developments allow more and more non-invasive analyses or chemical imaging in situ, thus keeping the object or sample intact and in its place during the analysis.

3.1. Laboratory investigation based on samples

3.1.1. Study of loose pigments

When a sample can be removed from a polychrome object, study of the pigment grains directly is possible. In this case the investigation should start with optical microscopy. Pigments are characterized on the one hand by their colour but on the other hand by: their particle size and size distribution (fine or coarse-grained pigments); particle shape (spherical, acicular, fibrous, bladed, lamellar, tabular, columnar, dendritic, pennate); the possible aggregation of several crystals (botryoidal habit, framboidal, cryptocrystalline); particle surface properties; fracture and cleavage properties; and degree of translucency. These properties are diagnostic and can be used for pigment identification through microscopic observation. Some of these characteristics can be observed using an optical microscope; other properties require the use of a polarized light microscope. If a crystal is pleochroic, change of colour is observed while rotating under plane-polarized light. The refractive index and relief are characteristic as well. Observation between crossed polars provides information about degree of anisotropy and extinction phenomena.

Optical micrographs of different pigments show characteristic mineralogical features of the crystal grains (Fig. 2).

Figure 2.

Optical micrographs of: (a) a sample from a pink area (Ba P3) containing white and red grains probably composed of lead white and vermilion, of a double sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz; (b) yellow (Terra di Siena); (c) green (Schweinfurter Grün); (d) blue (Prussian or Berlin blue); (e) black (bone and ivory black); and (f) white chalk (Rügener Kreide) pigments. All micrographs were taken with a × 50 objective. © Regine-Ricarda Pausewein, Rathgen-Forshcungslabor, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

Figure 2.

Optical micrographs of: (a) a sample from a pink area (Ba P3) containing white and red grains probably composed of lead white and vermilion, of a double sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz; (b) yellow (Terra di Siena); (c) green (Schweinfurter Grün); (d) blue (Prussian or Berlin blue); (e) black (bone and ivory black); and (f) white chalk (Rügener Kreide) pigments. All micrographs were taken with a × 50 objective. © Regine-Ricarda Pausewein, Rathgen-Forshcungslabor, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

Mineral pigments can also be studied by various techniques such as vibrational spectroscopies such as Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) or Raman spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction, near infrared, visible and ultraviolet reflectance spectroscopy as well as X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF).

FT-IR spectra of Prussian or Berlin blue and lead white enable pigment identification through characteristic absorption bands (Fig. 3). Lead white could be identified by FT-IR in the case of the pink area (Ba P3) of a double sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner (Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) but not vermilion, which was identified by micro-Raman spectroscopy (Fig. 4b). Figure 5 shows: (a) an XRF spectrum with its measurement point on a light blue area (b) of the Ludwig Meidner painting. Elements such as Fe, Ca, Pb, Si, Al, K, Ti, Zn, (Cu) may be detected indicating the presence of a mixture of Prussian blue, ultramarine, lead white and calcite (Röhrs et al., 2014). Figure 6a shows an XRD pattern of modern Maya blue, indicating the presence of palygorskite, and Fig. 6b shows a Vis spectrum of an archaeological Maya blue sample from a Ceramic head with painted blue headdress, Yucatan Mexico (Fig. 6c, Inv. No.: IV Ca 5119, Ethnologisches Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin) in comparison to modern Maya blue and indigo references from Kremer (Kremer 36007 and 36003, respectively) (Morales-Merino et al., 2016).

Figure 3.

FTIR spectrum of lead white of a pink area (Ba P3) of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 3.

FTIR spectrum of lead white of a pink area (Ba P3) of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 4.

Micro-Raman spectra of (a) a blue area containing ultramarine (Ba P4) and (b) of a pink area (Ba P3) containing lead white and vermilion of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 4.

Micro-Raman spectra of (a) a blue area containing ultramarine (Ba P4) and (b) of a pink area (Ba P3) containing lead white and vermilion of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 5.

(a) Micro-XRF spectrum of a light blue area (b) containing Prussian Blue, ultramarine, lead white and calcite of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 5.

(a) Micro-XRF spectrum of a light blue area (b) containing Prussian Blue, ultramarine, lead white and calcite of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 6.

(a) XRD diagram of modern Maya blue (Kremer 36007) and (b) Vis spectrum of archaeological Maya blue of the object depicted in (c) ceramic head with painted headdress, Yucatan Mexico (Inv. No. IV Ca 5119, Ethnologisches Museum Berlin) with respect to a modern Maya blue and indigo reference.

Figure 6.

(a) XRD diagram of modern Maya blue (Kremer 36007) and (b) Vis spectrum of archaeological Maya blue of the object depicted in (c) ceramic head with painted headdress, Yucatan Mexico (Inv. No. IV Ca 5119, Ethnologisches Museum Berlin) with respect to a modern Maya blue and indigo reference.

3.1.2. Study of pigments in paints

Mineral pigments are generally found in paint layers of paintings or of polychrome objects. The precious and rare nature of cultural heritage objects makes it necessary to study them in a non-invasive or micro-invasive way. Observations of the painting or objects under different lights (UV, Vis and IR imaging and false colour imaging, X-ray radiography, etc.) allow, in some cases, the pigment to be identified. Polychrome surfaces or paintings are composed of more or less complex layers of paint ranging from preparatory ground and priming layers to glazes and varnishes. To obtain a special hue, sometimes several paint layers are present and therefore several pigments are included in the layered structure of the paint. It is thus necessary to identify the pigment in each layer. The sample is thus prepared as a cross section allowing microscopic observation and analysis using micro-destructive or non-invasive techniques on each constituent layer (Fig. 8; Reiche et al., 2015). The preparation of the cross section is key to obtaining a representative view of the paint stratigraphy as function of the kind of matter, its fragility, shape and size. Preparation also depends on the objective of the study: the art historical question to be answered.

Figure. 7.

(a) Courbet painting L’homme blessé (81.5 cm × 97.5 cm, Inv. No. RF 338, Musée d’Orsay, Paris) with a detail (b) of the photograph (and XRR superimposed) of the centre of the Courbet painting showing the two hidden compositions

Figure. 7.

(a) Courbet painting L’homme blessé (81.5 cm × 97.5 cm, Inv. No. RF 338, Musée d’Orsay, Paris) with a detail (b) of the photograph (and XRR superimposed) of the centre of the Courbet painting showing the two hidden compositions

Figure 8.

(a) Cross section of sample P3 showing up to 14 paint layers of the Caspar David Friedrich painting ‘Mönch am Meer’ (Inv. No. NG 9/85), Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and (b) Cross section no. 1089 showing up to ten paint layers of the Gustave Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé’ (Inv. No. RF 338), Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Figure 8.

(a) Cross section of sample P3 showing up to 14 paint layers of the Caspar David Friedrich painting ‘Mönch am Meer’ (Inv. No. NG 9/85), Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and (b) Cross section no. 1089 showing up to ten paint layers of the Gustave Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé’ (Inv. No. RF 338), Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

After observation using light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy-dispersive X-ray analysis (SEM-EDX) is used to identify pigments from the characteristic chemical elements contained in each layer (Fig. 9). The particularly complicated Courbet painting L’homme blessé (Fig. 7) has two underlying compositions: layer 1 of cross section 1089 contains lead white, iron oxide (orange) and very small amounts of barium sulfate (with Sr); layer 2 contains lead white, quartz, carbon-based black or brown and unidentified orange particles; layer 3 contains lead white, vermilion, Prussian blue, iron oxides (orange and red) with Al and Si and carbon-based black/brown; layer 4 contains lead white, iron oxides (orange and red) with As and Si, vermilion, cobalt blue (with Al) and organic red on an alum substrate (small Sn component); layer 5 contains lead white, iron oxides (orange) some with As and some with Al, feldspar (K Al silicate), bone black (with Mg) and carbon-based black/brown; layer 6 contains bone black, umber, Mn in clay and umber: layer 7 contains lead white, barium sulfate (with Sr), bone black (with Mg), carbon-based black. The ground layer is missing in this cross section and layer 8 corresponds to the varnish of the actual composition (Reiche et al., 2015).

Figure 9.

Electron micrograph (a) of the cross section no. 1089 of the Gustave Courbet painting L’homme blessé (Inv. No. RF 338), Musée d’Orsay, Paris and (b) of a detail of the layers 4 to 7 with the minerals present indicated.

Figure 9.

Electron micrograph (a) of the cross section no. 1089 of the Gustave Courbet painting L’homme blessé (Inv. No. RF 338), Musée d’Orsay, Paris and (b) of a detail of the layers 4 to 7 with the minerals present indicated.

The identity of pigments in the paint layers can only be inferred from EDX analysis. A precise identification of each pigment needs further phase analyses like FTIR in ATR mode (Fig. 10) or optical spectroscopy such as fibre optic reflectance spectroscopy (Röhrs and Stehr, 2014).

Figure 10.

ATR FTIR point analyses for identification of the constituents of paint cross sections. Examples of several measured spectra on the cross section P3 of the Caspar David Friedrich painting ‘Mönch am Meer’, ANG showing the presence of smalt in layers 5 and 6. Characteristic absorption bands of the Co-glass smalt are at ~1080 cm–1.

Figure 10.

ATR FTIR point analyses for identification of the constituents of paint cross sections. Examples of several measured spectra on the cross section P3 of the Caspar David Friedrich painting ‘Mönch am Meer’, ANG showing the presence of smalt in layers 5 and 6. Characteristic absorption bands of the Co-glass smalt are at ~1080 cm–1.

3.2. In situ pigment analyses using portable equipment

3.2.1. Digital microscopy

As for investigations in the laboratory, in situ analyses should start with microscopic observations. New digital devices are available that allow the study of the objects in the museum or at the archaeological site. Such investigations are of utmost importance for choosing the appropriate analysis zones for further in situ pigment analyses. It allows the definition of the different pigment hues present, the zones with overpaints, former reparation or restorations. In the case of the leather wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’ composed of ten different painted leather parts, twelve different hues can be distinguished (Fig. 11a). Patches sewn on the object and inlays glued to the surface can also be seen. Some areas show better protected colour and leather. Two areas are clearly lighter than the others. The microscopic analysis also confirmed that the blue corners are painted over the frame decorations, which might mean that they were added later. Some parts of the painting layer are missing. Further missing parts are holes, seam yarn and other details in the leather itself (Fig. 11b) (Aibéo et al., 2016).

Figure 11.

(a) Leather wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’, 17th c. kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. I D 37597, digital micrographs of: (b) a detail (× 5 objective) showing different hues and (c) a repaired area.

Figure 11.

(a) Leather wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’, 17th c. kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. I D 37597, digital micrographs of: (b) a detail (× 5 objective) showing different hues and (c) a repaired area.

3.2.2. X-ray fluorescence analyses

After definition of the analytical points, further in situ analyses are possible. First, chemical analyses using non-invasive portable XRF can be performed. As a matter of fact pXRF is almost ideal for studying paint layers, as they are generally flat, thin and free from absorbing coatings. There are several portable devices available ranging from a handheld XRF spectrometer with a spot size up to 1 cm down to a micro-XRF spectrometer with spot sizes of 100 μm. We also have a small device allowing in situ chemical imaging using pXRF on small zones up to 20 cm × 20 cm in size.

In situ XRF analysis of the pigments contained in the wall hanging ‘The island of Formosa’ was performed using the portable ArtTAX Pro spectrometer (Bruker AXS, Mo tube excitation). The elements from sodium (Na) to uranium (U) can be detected by the spectrometer. For better detection, a vacuum head was used; this minimizes the amount of air through which the X-rays must pass and therefore increases its sensitivity to the lighter elements. A constant flow of He gas is used to minimize adsorption of the fluorescent X-rays by air. The area analysed has a diameter of ~0.1 mm (or 100 mm) thanks to focusing X-ray optics. This helps to study small details on the object. The detailed experimental conditions were 45 kV, 100 μΑ, 100 s life time, 0–50 keV spectral range and background suppression by 60 smoothing cycles. These conditions allowed us to infer a large range of pigments used for the decoration of the leather wall hanging including cinnabar and sometimes traces of minium, a mixture of minium and lead white, lead white alone, a mixture of cinnabar and lead white, goethite and a combination of azurite and lazurite. In the blue corners a special blue was found as it contains Co, Ni, As and Pb. It is probably the synthetic pigment cobalt blue (Fig. 12). Green, yellow and black pigments could not be identified using micro-XRF as they are mainly or partly composed of organic constituents (Aibéo et al., 2016).

Figure 12.

Micro XRF spectrum of ‘The Island of Formosa’ leather wall hanging kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. (I D 37597), spot 43_16_139_blue in the blue corners, showing the presence of K, Fe, Co, Ni, As, Pb and traces of Ca, Ba, Cu and Zn.

Figure 12.

Micro XRF spectrum of ‘The Island of Formosa’ leather wall hanging kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. (I D 37597), spot 43_16_139_blue in the blue corners, showing the presence of K, Fe, Co, Ni, As, Pb and traces of Ca, Ba, Cu and Zn.

Even depth-resolved confocal microXRF analyses are possible in situ nowadays. They allow the investigation of the chemical composition of different paint layers without sampling. However, these analyses are restricted to the upper paint layers because of the absorption of the emitted X-rays by upper layers. The stability of the positioning of the depth-resolved analyses is still an issue (Müller et al., 2017).

3.2.3. Micro-Raman analyses

For the direct identification of pigments, complementary in situ analyses are necessary using portable micro-Raman instruments. As for portable XRF devices, there is a wealth of modern Raman spectrometers that allow in situ pigment study. They are optimized to work in a horizontal set-up to work directly on the exhibited object. A Horiba XploRa micro-Raman system was used for the analyses of the leather wall hanging ‘The island of Formosa’. This device is equipped with three lasers with wavelengths of 532, 638 and 785 nm. The maximum power of each laser is 25 mW (532 nm), 24 mW (638 nm) and 90 mW (785 nm). Moreover different filters permit control of the laser power (transmissions of 100%, 50%, 25%, 10% 1%, 0.1%) and the spectral resolution is controlled by the use of different gratings. A Si standard with a characteristic band at 520.5 cm1 is used for wavelength-scale calibration. Data acquisition and spectra elaboration are performed with specific NGS LabSpec software. In order to be able to work in situ the set-up was modified with respect to the usual Raman microscopy arrangement. The laser path is deviated by 90° using a so-called macro accessory which contains a 45° sloped mirror for analyses. By means of these investigations indigo and carbon black (Fig. 13) could also be identified on the leather wall hanging and the presence of further pigments such as minium, cinnabar, lazurite, etc. could be confirmed (Aibéo et al., 2016).

Figure 13.

In situ micro-Raman spectrum of carbon black identified on the black area of ‘The Island of Formosa’ leather wall hanging kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. I D 37597.

Figure 13.

In situ micro-Raman spectrum of carbon black identified on the black area of ‘The Island of Formosa’ leather wall hanging kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. I D 37597.

3.2.4. Complementary in situ analyses

These pigment analyses can be complemented by further in situ analyses using, for instance, portable Vis spectrometers and FTIR spectrometers working in reflection mode (Vetter and Schreiner, 2011). The field of technological development to miniaturize and to optimize spectroscopic methods to be portable so that they can be used in situ is very dynamic. Every day there are new options for in situ pigment analyses. Even new options for pigment identification using portable micro-XRD analyses are possible today (Gianoncelli et al., 2008; Eveno et al., 2010).

3.3. Investigations using imaging techniques

3.3.1. In the laboratory

As noted above the analysis of pigments in paintings is generally performed by means of optical (OM) and SEM-EDX on samples and cross-sections along with various non-invasive surface-sensitive analytical techniques (X-ray fluorescence, Raman spectro-scopy or X-ray diffraction). This analysis is restricted to tiny zones. Therefore, the need arose to use imaging techniques to get a more representative view of the pigment distribution in paintings and polychrome objects. Classical painting imaging methods are UV imaging, infrared reflectography or X-ray radiography.

These imaging techniques can today be complemented by new chemical imaging techniques such as Raman and FTIR imaging, macro-XRF scanning (MA-XRF) and hyperspectral imaging techniques (Dik et al., 2008; Janssens et al., 2010; Alfeld et al., 2011, 2013; Alfeld and de Viguerie, 2017). All these techniques are available as stationary laboratory equipment. Non-invasive two-dimensional scanning X-ray fluorescence (MA-XRF) spectroscopy provides the imaging of elements present in paintings down to trace concentrations. This is achieved by scanning the work area with an X-ray beam of a small diameter and recording spectra point by point. Numerous applications of this technique – even using mobile scanners as reviewed by Alfeld and de Viguerie (2017) have highlighted the potential of MA-XRF for scanning precious paintings from different periods revealing overpaints, ancient restorations, etc. Such set-ups have already demonstrated attractive potentials and capabilities on numerous art objects and especially paintings. The main advantage of this technique is that the chemical XRF image can be superimposed on the optical image. Therefore, MA-XRF imaging of paintings is today a well established method using different sources and also using mobile equipment. The MA-XRF imaging of the Courbet painting L’homme blessé shows the possibility of chemical imaging of paintings in the laboratory. The investigation was carried out with a prototype designed at the C2RMF. The detailed experimental description of the instrument is reported elsewhere (Ravaud et al., 2016). Maps of 100 pixels × 100 pixels were acquired with a step size of 1.4 mm corresponding to a 140 mm × 140 mm area. Eleven areas could be scanned on the painting. They were selected according to the most interesting zones identified on the X-radiograph. The selected areas correspond to the zones with the most important changes in the three compositions of the painting. The data were processed with the open source program PyMCA (Solé et al., 2007) which allows the generation of fitted peak area maps for various elements from elemental maps (in PNG format) derived using a program developed at the C2RMF called DataImaging 3D (Pichon et al., 2015). Detailed descriptions of the chemical maps obtained of the paintings were presented by Reiche et al. (2016). As an example, the Hg L map of the case study presented in detail in Section 4.3 is shown indicating two hidden underlying painting compositions (Fig. 14). Besides the head of a male, visible today, two female heads are visible in the Hg L distribution map. The Hg L map shows deeper paint layers as the Hg L fluorescence line has a relatively high energy and thus a greater depth of information.

Figure 14.

Macro-XRF Hg L map of eleven scanned zones superimposing the X-ray radiography of the Gustave Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé’, Musée d’Orsay, Inv. No. RF 338 and the two hidden compositions indicated in yellow (first one) and red (second composition)

Figure 14.

Macro-XRF Hg L map of eleven scanned zones superimposing the X-ray radiography of the Gustave Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé’, Musée d’Orsay, Inv. No. RF 338 and the two hidden compositions indicated in yellow (first one) and red (second composition)

3.3.2. In situ MA-XRF scanning analyses

Chemical imaging studies are also possible today using portable XRF scanning devices such as the portable ELIO XRF device (XGlab®). The in situ XRF map of one area of the leather wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’ is shown as an example. The area analysed is at the heart of the wall hanging in the so-called area 2 on a selected boat. The area scanned is 2 cm × 4 cm (Fig. 15). The corresponding chemical maps of the Hg Lα and the Pb Lα fluorescence lines (Fig. 16) show that the red area is rich in Hg, indicating vermilion and light yellow, red and pink zones contain significant amounts of lead indicating the presence of lead-containing pigments such as lead white and massicot. The dark yellow does not contain much Pb and is therefore likely to be composed of an organic yellow colourant.

Figure 15.

Photograph of the area of the XRF mapping in area 2 of the wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’.

Figure 15.

Photograph of the area of the XRF mapping in area 2 of the wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’.

Figure 16.

XRF-maps for (a) Hg Lα and (b) Pb Lα in area 2 of the wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’. The intensity bar ranges from blue (low intensity) to red (high intensity) of the X-ray line.

Figure 16.

XRF-maps for (a) Hg Lα and (b) Pb Lα in area 2 of the wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’. The intensity bar ranges from blue (low intensity) to red (high intensity) of the X-ray line.

3.3.3. On the micro- and nanoscale, combined imaging methods at large-scale facilities

For the very special purposes of pigment identification and analysis, imaging methods such as ion beam facilities or synchrotron sources are required. Such methods are necessary because of the intrinsic complexity and multi-scalar heterogeneity of painting materials, combined with the relative abundance of their individual components. In addition, the analysis of chemical elements at the trace and ultratrace level, as well as determination of crystallographic phases at the micro- or even nanoscale is often necessary in order to answer questions related to provenance, production techniques, alterations and conservation of pigments. Several methods may need to be combined on a small scale in order to characterize individual constituents. This methodological challenge can only be met at large-scale facilities. In particular, synchrotron radiation sources offer polychromaticity, high flux, low divergence, small source size, stability, ‘calculability’ of the source, and polarization; these characteristics are well adapted to meet the aforementioned challenges. After preliminary laboratory investigations, such approaches using high-tech equipment can solve very specific problems in cultural heritage science.

It is not possible to cover exhaustively all significant on-going imaging developments at large-scale facilities. This chapter is, thus, restricted to the main methods used for high-definition imaging in cultural heritage.

Synchrotron-based XRF or accelerator-based PIXE imaging are, without doubt, the most commonly used methods at large-scale facilities. They offer non-invasive analysis of the chemical compositions of pigments from the macro- to the nanoscale, while being sensitive to major, minor and trace elements. Synchrotron XRF is very often combined with X-ray absorption spectroscopy and X-ray diffraction, because these methods can be performed simultaneously using the same X-ray source by adopting different imaging detectors. Further combinations are possible with other X-ray techniques such as small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and computed tomography (CT) but molecular spectroscopic methods can also be performed simultaneously with X-ray imaging such as Raman and FTIR imaging. For more detailed information, the reader is referred to further literature (Dik et al., 2008; Cotte et al., 2009a,b, 2010; Janssens et al., 2010; Bertrand et al., 2012; Reiche and Chalmin, 2014; Albéric et al., 2015; Gay et al., 2015; Alfeld and de Viguerie 2017)[i6] which presents various possible combinations of large-scale facility imaging methods used in cultural heritage studies.

4. Examples highlighting the information obtained when studying mineral pigments in historical and archaeological contexts

The pigments and colourants selected and the complexity of the paint palette employed reflect differences in the choice of artistic technique and in the symbolic meaning or function of works of art. They can also be used as indicators of the social rank of the commissioner or owner or be specific to a social group.

Therefore, the technical study of pigments and colourants used in archaeological artefacts and in works of art allows us insights into the nature, genesis and origin of artefacts, into the production or transformation techniques used, and indirectly into the use and exchange of knowledge in past societies. Such techniques may also solve problems of authenticity.

Other important issues concerning the technical study of pigments and colourants in cultural heritage are the understanding of their alteration over time, the set-up of adequate conservation measures and the establishment of the best possible restoration strategies as well as in the detection of forgeries.

The following examples are intended to illustrate the analytical approach and the variety of questions that can be addressed while studying ancient mineral pigments.

4.1. Non-invasive in situ characterization of manganese oxides used for Palaeolithic cave art in the Rouffignac cave, Dordogne, south-western France. Differentiation of artists’ contributions

Since its recognition as prehistoric art at the end of the 19th century, rock art preserved in limestone caves in southern France and in northern Spain have been subjected to extensive research that has been performed to study the style and technique of the paintings and drawings, to date the figures, and to determine their possible overlap and sequence of execution. Chemical analysis allows the identification of the constituent pigments as well as the ‘paint pots’ obtained by mixtures of different minerals and possibly also organic compounds that are today degraded. Paints or crayons used for cave art generally contain red hematite or red ochre (α-Fe2O3), yellow goethite (α-FeOOH) or yellow ochre; whereas black can contain either charcoal or various manganese oxides/hydroxides. In the very fortunate case of the use of charcoal or other C-based compounds the decoration of cave walls can be dated directly using the 14C method (Valladas et al., 2001; Beck et al., 2013; Quiles et al., 2016). In the absence of black C-based pigments other indirect means have to be employed in order to gain more insights into the chronological order of prehistoric representations. Therefore, archaeologists seek the presence of C-based paints and pigments in caves. Further studies are needed of the artistic techniques to differentiate between various artists involved in painting caves to establish the chronological order for the representations. Iron oxides, various Mn oxides and hydroxides and C-based compounds can be studied using in situ techniques, which make sampling obsolete. On-site XRF analyses, XRD and Raman analyses after microscopic observations of the walls are possible today thanks to mobile spectrometers (Lahlil et al., 2012; Beck et al., 2014; Gay et al., 2015, 2016). From the variety of paint and drawing composition and application techniques, it can be assumed that it is possible to distinguish several artists involved in the execution of such rock art. The XRF analysis of Fe-based red pigments is difficult because the rock substrate generally also contains Fe-bearing minerals. Concerning Mn oxides/hydroxides, their differentiation from the rock substrate is more straightforward because they are sufficiently different in composition. A differentiation or a classification into different pigment groups is possible by means of XRF analysis. However, there is a large variety of different mineralogical Mn oxides and hydroxides with similar chemical compositions so that in situ phase analysis is required to separate pigments used for different prehistoric representations. The challenge of pigment identification is enhanced by the fact that Mn oxides and hydroxides are generally poorly crystalline so that they show diffraction patterns with a small peak-to-noise ratio. However, several studies in the Rouffignac cave showed the feasibility of a combination of XRF/XRD and Raman analyses of the prehistoric figures in order to distinguish pigment groups and to identify different mineral phases as a function of the pigment group identified.

The Rouffignac cave situated in the Dordogne region in southern France is one of the key sites of Upper Palaeolithic art. It shows ~240 animal drawings and engravings on the walls attributed to the Magdalenian period (Barrière, 1982; Plassard, 1999; Plassard and Plassard, 2016). Because of the predominance of representations of mammoths, this animal is the distinctive element of the cave. It is also referred to as ‘the hundred mammoths’ cave’. Its largest drawing composition, the ‘Grand Plafond’, comprises 65 black animals corresponding to one third of the cave’s rock art (Fig. 17a). On the ‘Grand Plafond’ (Great ceiling) the figures are arranged without any striking global organization, whereas in the ‘Henri Breuil gallery’ with ‘the ten mammoths’ frieze’ and the ‘rhino frieze’ as well as the ‘panel of the large Patriarche’, although engraved, are all well aligned.

Figure 17.

(a) Portable XRF image of a bison of the Great Ceiling at Rouffignac cave, Dordogne, France, (b) parts of the figures of ibex 113 and bison 114 reconsidered as a function of the chemical composition of the strokes.

Figure 17.

(a) Portable XRF image of a bison of the Great Ceiling at Rouffignac cave, Dordogne, France, (b) parts of the figures of ibex 113 and bison 114 reconsidered as a function of the chemical composition of the strokes.

Four of the ten mammoths and one rhinoceros of the ‘three rhinoceros’ frieze’ of the ‘Henri Breuil gallery’ and the two isolated ‘faced mammoths’ as well as 45 figures of the ‘Great Ceiling’ (Grand Plafond) have been studied systematically.

The methods used were necessarily non-invasive, allowing mineralogical and chemical study of the figures without sampling or touching the figures. The techniques used were portable micro-Raman spectroscopy and XRD as well as XRF analyses. Raman spectroscopy, together with XRF, is one of the most widely used methods for the study of mineralogical phases in cultural heritage artefacts and pigments because of its non-invasive nature. It has already been used to study cave art several times (Hernanz et al., 2006, 2008; Ospitali et al., 2006). In the context of cave art it is of special value to be able to detect figures drawn with C-based pigments for dating purposes. Two very intense bands at 1390 and 1590 cm1 (Tomasini et al., 2012) allow graphite to be identified. In the case of Rouffignac, the Raman investigation determined mainly Mn oxide-based pigments (Lahlil et al., 2012). Carbon-based materials have been identified in very localized areas, namely: (1) in the line, considered to be modern, outlining the head of the mammoth (# 66) located on the Great ceiling, (2) in small C particles on the mammoth (#180) of the two isolated ‘faced mammoths’, and (3) carotenoid-type organic C on the mammoth frieze and the rhino frieze. The carbon-based pigments cannot, however, be used for dating the figures because they are present in insufficient amounts and are likely to be from elsewhere and not related directly to the prehistoric pictures (Beck et al., 2013). Therefore, the study should be complemented by the identification of the mineral phases in order to classify the figures according to different pigments or pigment mixtures. Using XRD and Raman spectroscopy, two main types of Mn oxides were identified among the different figures: pyrolusite (MnO2) and romanechite ((Ba,H2O)2Mn5O10) containing ~20 wt.% of BaO. They were also identified as mixtures of pyrolusite or hausmannite (Mn3O4) and romanechite giving rise to an intermediate BaO group (Lahlil et al., 2012; Beck et al., 2014).

The figures of the ‘ten mammoths frieze’ studied by XRF show a homogeneous picture with respect to its composition. They contain a Mn oxide with ~10±3 wt.% of BaO. In addition, XRD results showed that quartz was present systematically either in the pigment or as a layer below the pigment (Beck et al., 2014).

The work confirms, therefore, that ‘ten mammoths’ frieze’ of the Henry Breuil Gallery is an homogeneous mineralogical group, which is in good agreement with the stylistic homogeneity of the drawings. Mineralogical results confirm the hypothesis of a unity of conception and realization. Despite the prevailing content of one type of Mn oxide, the black pigments used to draw the mammoth frieze seem to be a mixture of several mineralogical phases, an observation that is compatible with the use of untransformed raw materials from natural sources. Furthermore, romanechite is a natural Mn oxide, which cannot be obtained by transformation of other Mn compounds. This result confirms that the stylistic coherence of the ‘ten mammoth frieze’ is the result of one artist or group that worked over a relatively small period of time with the same raw material. In contrast, the figures in the ‘rhinoceros frieze’ are different from the ‘ten mammoth frieze’ and similar to some of the Great Ceiling. In the various animals (horse, mammoth, ibex and bison) of the Great Ceiling, all three types of Mn oxidebearing pigments were identified in the different figures. These pigment groups cannot be matched to a type of animal representation or to stylistic groups. Research is currently under way to relate stylistic observations and superimposition studies to the chemical fingerprint of the studied figures. It seems obvious that several hands created the prehistoric artworks of the Great Ceiling in a relatively short time leading to a panel lacking an evident overall organization (Gay et al. submitted). The first results of some subsets show the value of combing different types of approaches, allowing the rereading of figures and subsets of figures of the Great Ceiling. As an example, two neighbouring drawings, the ibex 113 and the bison 114 of the panel are considered (Fig. 17b). The front legs of the ibex 113 show pigment compositions of ~7% BaO, corresponding to the intermediate BaO-containing MnO group. This composition is not in agreement with that obtained for the ibex muzzle, the back of its head and its horn (~3% BaO) corresponding to the very-low-BaO-containing MnO group. Interestingly, the chemical signature of the ibex legs matches perfectly that of the head of the neighbouring bison 114. The chemical characteristics, therefore, allow a new reading of these two figures and indicate that the strokes, initially interpreted as front legs of ibex 113, actually represent the front leg of bison 114 (Fig. 17b). As another example, different chemical signatures were found for several parts attributed to mammoth 122. Drawing strokes inside the mammoth and those on its legs illustrating the animal’s fur differ from one of the contour strokes of the drawing (6% and 3%, respectively). It is probably a stylistic addition by the artist him/herself or, more likely, was added by another artist possibly at a later date.

Other examples discussed by Gay et al. (submitted) show the alternative use of different crayons to create more or less complex compositions of figures. This reinforces the idea that the ‘Grand Plafond’ was probably created in successive subsets of figures by small teams of artists without taking into account the general organization of the panel. The drawing of these subsets can be imagined the same way as the creation of figures of the mammoth or the rhinoceros friezes in the Henry Breuil Gallery drawn over a relatively short time period by a very small team. The superimposition of these different subsets of the great ceiling leads to its actual presentation.

4.2. Alteration mechanisms of pigments on central Asian wall paintings from the Northern Silk road, kept at the Asian Art Museum, Berlin

Land and maritime routes, linking East and West for thousands of years and known today under the terms ‘Silk Roads’ and ‘Spice Routes’ enabled not only the trade of merchandise such as silk, wool, gold, metals, ivory, spices and other precious items but also the exchange of cultures, ideas, knowledge and religious beliefs. Through these ancient routes, Buddhism could spread from India to China so that important Buddhist monasteries flourished over centuries in Central Asia, including the famous sites of Turfan and Kucha, situated on the northern edge of the Taklamakan desert or Khotan and Miran, south of the desert. Grottoes and temples, richly decorated with wall paintings and painted sculptures, served the Buddhist monks as lodging and centres of worship. The ‘Silk Roads’ inspired in the 19th and 20th century AD European archaeologists, such as Aurel Stein (British: 1862–1943), Paul Peillot (French: 1879–1945) or Albert Grünwedel (German: 1856–1935) and Albert von Le Coq (German: 1860–1930), who conducted expeditions around the Taklamakan desert (today: Xinjiang Province, China) (Grünwedel, 1912; Von Le Coq, 1922–26). The findings of the four German exploration voyages between 1902 and 1914 include amongst other artifacts mural paintings, painted sculptures and painted wooden structures which are today stored in the Asian Art Museum, Berlin (Ulrich, 1964; Riederer, 1977; Russell-Smith, 2005; Gabsch, 2012).

These mural paintings can be attributed artistically to four distinguishable styles: (1) Indo-Iranian style (4th to 6th c. AD), (2) Indo-Iranian style (7th to 8th c. AD although both styles could be contemporary), (3) Chinese style (8th to the 9th c. AD) and (4) the Uygur style (10th to 13th c. AD, Fig. 18). The region of interest named here as the Northern Silk Road represents the route between Kashgar and Turfan (Xinjiang, China).

Figure 18.

Part of a mural painting from cave 8 (Chinese numeration, Inv. No. MIK III 8426), Asian Art Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

Figure 18.

Part of a mural painting from cave 8 (Chinese numeration, Inv. No. MIK III 8426), Asian Art Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

Once the grottoes were carved into the cliff of the soft sandstone mountains, two layers of mud plaster (coarse underlayer and a fine upper layer) were applied to the walls, consisting of clay mixed with sand and straw or other fibres such as cotton, wool or hemp. A fine and smooth white preparation layer was then applied to the earthen plaster on which the paintings were depicted using inorganic pigments, organic binding media and organic colourants. The paintings were made using the a secco technique, in which an organic binder is required to fix the pigments onto the painting surface. This technique has been applied widely along the Silk Road; examples can be found in Bamiyan (Afghanistan) or in the Mogao grottoes at Dunhuang (China). In the case of the detached mural paintings, which are today kept at the Asian Art Museum in Berlin, the different conservation measures as well as the damage caused by inappropriate storage during World Wars affected the actual state of conservation of the mural paintings.

4.2.1. Identification of different mineral pigments

Pigments of 76 mural painting fragments from different Buddhist sites along the Northern Silk Road (from west to east: Tumshuk, Kizil, Kumtura, Shortshuk, Bezeklik, Turfan, Chotscho and Murtuk) have been studied by means of polarization light microscopy (PLM), IR spectroscopy, emission spectrum analysis and XRD (Riederer, 1977) (Fig. 19). The analyses were performed on the bulk material. Only a few crosssections, considered to be essetial nowadays for the investigation of paintings, were performed. More recent works by Egel and Simon (2011a,b, 2013), Gabsch (2012), Egel et al. (2015) and Schmidt et al. (2016) concentrate on fragments of three particular caves (Cave 8, Kizil; Cave 40, Sim-sim; and Temple a, Chotscho). Although based on a small series of tiny samples, the study performed by Riederer in the 1970s gives the most global overview to date of the pigments used along the Northern Silk Road through several centuries (6th–10th c. AD).

Figure 19.

Pigments found by Riederer (1977) as a function of the location of the Buddhist site and the time of origin of the paintings. Adapted from Egel et al. (2015).

Figure 19.

Pigments found by Riederer (1977) as a function of the location of the Buddhist site and the time of origin of the paintings. Adapted from Egel et al. (2015).

White pigments: Gypsum, anhydrite and more rarely lead white (basic lead carbonate) are the three pigments that were identified. Lead white was characterized in only five of 76 fragments analysed and was found predominantly in the Eastern branch of the Northern Silk Road (region of Turfan) rather than in the western region of Kucha. When found in the western part, e.g. on a fragment from Kumtura, then the mural paintings originated from a later period (8th–9th c., Fig. 19). The geographical tendency to find lead white at sites located in the east coupled with the fact that deposits of natural basic lead carbonate (hydrocerussite) are rare, suggest a synthetic origin for this pigment originating in China. But results reported by other authors do not support this assumption. Indeed, lead white or lead-based white pigments were characterized from the west as well as from the east from the sites analysed by Riederer. At Buddhist sites to the west of those analysed by Riederer, lead white was found on mural painting from Afrasiab in Usbekistan (5th–8th c.; Kossolapov and Kalinina (2007)) and a white lead-based pigment was characterized in Bamiyan (Afghanistan) on mural paintings created no later than the 5th c. AD (Shoten, 2006). At Buddhist sites to the east, lead white was identified on mural paintings from the late Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD) in Cave 85 from the Mogao Grottoes site at Dunhuang (Schilling et al., 2010) and several lead-based white pigments were identified in the Tiantishan Grottoes, situated between Dunhuang and Xi’an. Lead white, lead chloride, lead sulfate and the mineral leadhillite were found on samples assigned to the Tang period.

Yellow pigments: While yellow ochre was found frequently, the much brighter coloured orpiment was identified on only two fragments (Bezeklik and Kizil). Its use as a pigment is also reported for other Buddhist sites as in Penjikent (Tadjikistan), in Afrasiab (Usbekistan) and Dunhuang in China (Kossolapov and Kalinina, 2007; Schilling et al., 2010. Important natural deposits of orpiment, already known in antiquity, were located in the Balkan basin, in Turkey and Persia, but also in China (Yunnan province). The orpiment used on the Northern Silk Road could thus originate from either eastern or western natural deposits. The rare identification of orpiment (As2S3) by Riederer could be due to its transformation into the white arsenic trioxide (As2O3) under certain circumstances, such as exposure to light or ozone. A transformation mechanism into a white compound with unknown structure, containing arsenic but no sulfur, also seems to be possible through the action of microorganisms (Schilling et al., 2010).

Orange and red pigments: The orange pigment minium and red ochre were found throughout the geographical range studied. On the contrary, the red mineral cinnabar was only found on mural paintings from the east: between Shortshuk and Murtuk. Meanwhile, cinnabar was also found on wall paintings from Buddhist sites situated further to the west, e.g. in Sim-Sim (Schmidt et al., 2016), in Afrasiab (Kossolapov and Kalinina, 2007) and Bamiyan (Shoten, 2006). The blackening of both pigments, minium and cinnabar, is known from the literature (Cotte et al., 2006; Nöller and Helman-Wazny, 2013; Radepont et al., 2015). If the darkening of minium is commonly observed in the mural paintings from the Asian Art Museum in Berlin, cinnabar was found intact, the quality of the pigment being decisive for the alteration reaction (Nöller and Helman-Wazny, 2013).

Blue pigments: Lapis lazuli, and more rarely azurite, were used as blue pigments. Lapis lazuli was found exclusively on earlier wall paintings (6th–7th c.), whereas both pigments were characterized on the latest paintings (8th–10th c.). The intensity of the blue colour can vary a lot from one fragment to the other (Fig. 20), which is probably due to the quality of the pigment.

Figure 20.

The quality of the lapis lazuli used can vary significantly resulting in variable colour intensity.

Figure 20.

The quality of the lapis lazuli used can vary significantly resulting in variable colour intensity.

Green pigments: Atacamite was the most widespread green pigment and was used to paint whole surfaces. Contours were accentuated with lines painted with chrysocolla. Malachite could be identified on only two fragments from Kumtura. More recent studies, performed on cross-sections, show that different green shades were also obtained mixing malachite with atacamite in a gypsum matrix or adding indigo and lapis lazuli to atacamite (Egel et al., 2018).

Black pigments: Vine black, obtained from the carbonization of wood, and soot (lamp black) were the black pigments found, the latter probably being imported from China, where it was used as ink.

4.2.2. Alteration phenomena

If inorganic pigments are relatively stable in comparison to the organic binders and colourants, certain pigments still undergo alteration through oxidation or through other degradation mechanisms over long periods. The brown/red-violet colour found today on the mural paintings, the transformation of the blue pigment lapis lazuli into a greyish colour and the presence of oxalates are typical alteration phenomena observed.

Lead oxide phases today show a brown-violet colour. Different formation processes of minium, plattnerite and massicot are observed (Riederer, 1977, pers. comm.). Plattnerite can be formed through oxidation of both massicot and minium. Riederer made the assumption that the brown-violet alteration product was originally the yellow pigment massicot.

For the blue colour made from lapis lazuli, a transformation into a greyish colour is observed, the underlying alteration process of which is not fully understood. Ultramarine is known to be sensitive to acids. Possible sources of acid could be: (1) oxalic acid (bio-colonization); (2) release of acetic acid in cases where the fragments consolidated with polyvinyl acetate (PVAc); or (3) colourant, which led to an acidic environment because of its degradation. Two alteration phenomena have been observed on carvings produced with lapis lazuli: first the formation of goethite, hematite and jarosite because of the oxidation of pyrite contained in the lapis lazuli and secondly the formation of a white mineral, enriched in aluminium and silicon, not further identified (Calligaro, 2014).

Oxalates were detected in numerous paint layers without restriction to any specific colour. The identification of metal oxalates has been reported many times in the literature over recent decades (Egel and Simon, 2011b; Egel et al., 2018). Their formation could be the result of attack on sensitive pigments such as calcium carbonate, by oxalic acid. For the presence of oxalic acid, several sources are conceivable: it is a metabolism product of lichens and fungi, it can be produced by many plants and the photo-oxidation of organic binding media can lead to the formation of low molecular-weight dicarboxylic acids, which can again convert to the lowest unit of oxalate acid (Bordignon, 2008). The origin of oxalates in the paint layers from Central Asia is unclear. Even if mould growth on several pigments bound in animal glue has been proven (Stephan et al., 2012), the formation of oxalates due to fungal infestation or due to the degradation of the binding medium on wall painting mock-ups has not.

In order to produce a rich palette of colours, painters have the the option to use large numbers of materials (inorganic pigments and organic colourants) as a mixture or as an overlay of several paint layers (Palitza, 2017). Organic colourants, prepared by extraction from a variety of biological sources (vegetable, animal), have been used to dye textiles or to prepare paints by precipitating the colourant on an inorganic substrate. Only indigo has been identified (Riederer, 1977) also mixed with ultramarine and atacamite, resulting in a deeper green (Egel, pers. comm.).

With respect to the question of colourants, violet-red tones are particularly interesting. A white surface layer made of gypsum and/or silicates on the top of a dark painting layer (hematite or minium partly oxidized) is often observed. An example is given in Fig. 21: the red-violet colour of the hair (1) is due to hematite (Fe2O3) and the decoration lines (2), showing today a brownish colour, are made of a white matrix (silicate) with few inclusions of orange particles (minium). The white mineral could have been used intentionally in the process as a ground for the dyestuffs (Palitza, 2017).

Figure 21.

Red-violet area of the hair on the head of the figure depicted on the wall painting fragment III 4458b, Temple α, Khocho, Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin).

Figure 21.

Red-violet area of the hair on the head of the figure depicted on the wall painting fragment III 4458b, Temple α, Khocho, Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin).

4.3. Revealing the two underlying compositions of the Gustave Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé’ using a combined non-invasive approach of MA-XRF imaging and CXRF

The study of paintings using non-invasive analytical imaging methods allows in-depth insights onto the chemical composition of paint layers, changes in composition, overpaints and former restorations. Under favourable circumstances, when paint layers of different chemical compositions are present, possible underlying paint layers and compositions can be identified. A well established method revealing the chemistry of paintings is two-dimensional (2D) macro-X-ray fluorescence imaging (MA-XRF). This method gives an averaged image of the chemical composition of all detectable paint layers. Only partial information on the paint layer stratigraphy can be gained by combining information from different non-invasive examinations and observations including X-ray radiography (XRR) and multispectral imaging methods (Fig. 7b). However, revealing distinct paint layers, their composition, thickness and succession is crucial to a better understanding of the genesis of the art work, the artist’s process and in general the historical context of the painting, especially if several painting compositions are present on one canvas. To overcome this shortcoming, new approaches have been developed that allow non-invasive three-dimensional (3D) analyses of the chemical composition of the paint stratigraphy including depth-resolved analysis with confocal XRF set-ups (CXRF). The example presented here is the first comprehensive combined use of MA-XRF with CXRF applied to the investigation of a famous painting by Gustave Courbet ‘L’homme blessé’ kept in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris. According to former detailed studies, two other hidden compositions are present on the painting (Reiche et al., 2016). By means of the examination by XRR and of a few cross-sections taken in the 1970s by microscopical methods, several hints of these previous compositions of the painting could be gained, including the painting palette used (see Section 3.1.2). The actual composition presents the painter itself; one hidden composition shows him with a woman, probably Virginie Binet, his wife at this time; and another hidden composition shows an unknown woman alone. Up to ten paint layers belonging to the three compositions are present on the canvas prepared with a calcium-based ground and two layers of lead-white mixed with iron oxides and quartz. Blue pigments are composed of Cobalt blue, Prussian blue and ultramarine. Red and orange hues contain iron oxides, vermilion, and an organic lake on alum substrate. Brown is obtained by iron oxides and umbers. Chalk, lead white, baryte and clay are found in white. Black is made of bone and carbon-based black. Green contains emerald or Scheele’s green. As the different painting compositions were created around the 1840–50s, the artist’s pigment palette changed for the final composition. At this time, artists began to use new synthetic pigments, thus allowing more detailed insights into the details of the hidden compositions by chemical imaging and depth profiling. The sequence of the three successive painting compositions needed to be clarified. In addition, it was not certain that the first composition was a completed version of the painting as the first composition is scarcely visible on the XRR (Fig. 7b). Therefore, additional insights into the hidden compositions were required.

Macro-XRF maps of relevant chemical elements were prepared in combination with depth profiles at strategic points crossing the three compositions. The chemical maps provided more details of the two hidden compositions. The Hg L map is very informative as the high X-ray energy of the Hg L fluorescence lines allows us to obtain information about the deepest layers of the painting. Mercury is the constituent element of the red pigment, vermilion (mercury sulfide, HgS). This pigment is found beside white pigments in the flesh colours and in the red wound of Courbet in the actual composition. Therefore, it reveals the hidden faces. In the composition of the man with the woman it shows the lips, the nose and also the eyelid of the woman’s face. The hand embracing the young woman is also visible. It is surrounded by a cuff, which appears dark because it does not contain vermilion. The lips and the nose of the face of the woman alone, supposed to be the very first composition, is also visible in the Hg L map superimposed with the hair of the woman of the composition together with the man (inset in Fig. 14). Depth profiling using CXRF was performed on a point where both compositions overlap and show mercury-containing areas, such as parts of the faces indicating which of the two hidden compositions corresponds to the first and which to the second. Figure 22 shows the depth profile at location 11 of the painting (trunk of the background of the actual composition). Here, the deepest mercury-containing paint layer revealed probably corresponds to the first composition and thus to the woman alone because the XRR revealed her lips in this area. The Pb profile does not allow us to differentiate between the two compositions. Therefore, it can be shown that the woman alone was painted first before Courbet painted himself with Virginie Binet in the second composition.

Figure 22.

Depth profile at analysis location no. 11 on the Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé;’ corresponding to the lips of the woman in one of the hidden compositions (graph modified from Reiche et al., 2016).

Figure 22.

Depth profile at analysis location no. 11 on the Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé;’ corresponding to the lips of the woman in one of the hidden compositions (graph modified from Reiche et al., 2016).

This study revealed the order of three successive compositions of this painting. The first composition was clearly unfinished as discussed in more detail by Reiche et al. (2016). It also highlights the importance of employing complementary imaging methods in order to obtain a complete three-dimensional vision of the chemistry and stratigraphy of paintings.

5. Conclusions and perspectives

This chapter reviews the current state of study of coloured minerals of our cultural heritage. This includes mineral pigments such as ochre or manganese oxides used in prehistoric contexts, pigments from historical periods to modern times. The range of pigments corresponding to minerals is emphasized. They are part of the increasingly diverse artistic pigment palette. Special terms used in this chapter are defined so that a common understanding of the chapter is possible.

The reasons for studying archaeological and historical pigments of a mineralogical origin and the information potential they bear were described here.

The methods that allow the study of the different aspects of the pigments are presented as well as current analytical developments from sample-taking techniques to cutting-edge, complementary, non-invasive imaging methods.

Three case studies highlight the information potential of studying mineral pigments in order to obtain new information not visible by optical means. Aspects such as the differentiation of several artists who created the artifacts, the evolution of the paint palette over time and by region along the Silk Road as well as alteration phenomena. Last, but not least, insights were provided into the genesis of a painting by revealing details and the sequence of two hidden painting compositions on a 19th century French painting by Gustave Courbet by new 3D imaging methods.

Some new trends are presented of how to master most of the methods and techniques useful for investigating our painted cultural heritage. These new trends focus in particular on the combination of molecular, structural and chemical investigations possible in imaging modes, such as macro-XRF scanning and hyperspectral imaging. They produce chemical maps with complementary information that can be superimposed on optical images and can be understood by non-specialists. This makes them much used and very useful techniques that can help to advance interdisciplinary research such as required for the in-depth study of painting and polychrome objects. Nevertheless, the basis for gaining new and precise insights into the history of our cultural heritage, into their meaning and the ways of life in ancient societies is in accord with the research questions addressed.

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Figures & Tables

Figure 1.

Mummy portrait of a young woman, with an enlarged section and locations of the analysis (ANT Iinv. No. 31161,48). © Rathgen-Forschungslabor/Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 1.

Mummy portrait of a young woman, with an enlarged section and locations of the analysis (ANT Iinv. No. 31161,48). © Rathgen-Forschungslabor/Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 2.

Optical micrographs of: (a) a sample from a pink area (Ba P3) containing white and red grains probably composed of lead white and vermilion, of a double sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz; (b) yellow (Terra di Siena); (c) green (Schweinfurter Grün); (d) blue (Prussian or Berlin blue); (e) black (bone and ivory black); and (f) white chalk (Rügener Kreide) pigments. All micrographs were taken with a × 50 objective. © Regine-Ricarda Pausewein, Rathgen-Forshcungslabor, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

Figure 2.

Optical micrographs of: (a) a sample from a pink area (Ba P3) containing white and red grains probably composed of lead white and vermilion, of a double sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz; (b) yellow (Terra di Siena); (c) green (Schweinfurter Grün); (d) blue (Prussian or Berlin blue); (e) black (bone and ivory black); and (f) white chalk (Rügener Kreide) pigments. All micrographs were taken with a × 50 objective. © Regine-Ricarda Pausewein, Rathgen-Forshcungslabor, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

Figure 3.

FTIR spectrum of lead white of a pink area (Ba P3) of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 3.

FTIR spectrum of lead white of a pink area (Ba P3) of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 4.

Micro-Raman spectra of (a) a blue area containing ultramarine (Ba P4) and (b) of a pink area (Ba P3) containing lead white and vermilion of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 4.

Micro-Raman spectra of (a) a blue area containing ultramarine (Ba P4) and (b) of a pink area (Ba P3) containing lead white and vermilion of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 5.

(a) Micro-XRF spectrum of a light blue area (b) containing Prussian Blue, ultramarine, lead white and calcite of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 5.

(a) Micro-XRF spectrum of a light blue area (b) containing Prussian Blue, ultramarine, lead white and calcite of a double-sided expressionist painting ‘Barrikadenkampf (Revolution)’ by Ludwig Meidner, Inv. No. NG 61/61, Neue Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin.

Figure 6.

(a) XRD diagram of modern Maya blue (Kremer 36007) and (b) Vis spectrum of archaeological Maya blue of the object depicted in (c) ceramic head with painted headdress, Yucatan Mexico (Inv. No. IV Ca 5119, Ethnologisches Museum Berlin) with respect to a modern Maya blue and indigo reference.

Figure 6.

(a) XRD diagram of modern Maya blue (Kremer 36007) and (b) Vis spectrum of archaeological Maya blue of the object depicted in (c) ceramic head with painted headdress, Yucatan Mexico (Inv. No. IV Ca 5119, Ethnologisches Museum Berlin) with respect to a modern Maya blue and indigo reference.

Figure. 7.

(a) Courbet painting L’homme blessé (81.5 cm × 97.5 cm, Inv. No. RF 338, Musée d’Orsay, Paris) with a detail (b) of the photograph (and XRR superimposed) of the centre of the Courbet painting showing the two hidden compositions

Figure. 7.

(a) Courbet painting L’homme blessé (81.5 cm × 97.5 cm, Inv. No. RF 338, Musée d’Orsay, Paris) with a detail (b) of the photograph (and XRR superimposed) of the centre of the Courbet painting showing the two hidden compositions

Figure 8.

(a) Cross section of sample P3 showing up to 14 paint layers of the Caspar David Friedrich painting ‘Mönch am Meer’ (Inv. No. NG 9/85), Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and (b) Cross section no. 1089 showing up to ten paint layers of the Gustave Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé’ (Inv. No. RF 338), Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Figure 8.

(a) Cross section of sample P3 showing up to 14 paint layers of the Caspar David Friedrich painting ‘Mönch am Meer’ (Inv. No. NG 9/85), Alte Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and (b) Cross section no. 1089 showing up to ten paint layers of the Gustave Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé’ (Inv. No. RF 338), Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Figure 9.

Electron micrograph (a) of the cross section no. 1089 of the Gustave Courbet painting L’homme blessé (Inv. No. RF 338), Musée d’Orsay, Paris and (b) of a detail of the layers 4 to 7 with the minerals present indicated.

Figure 9.

Electron micrograph (a) of the cross section no. 1089 of the Gustave Courbet painting L’homme blessé (Inv. No. RF 338), Musée d’Orsay, Paris and (b) of a detail of the layers 4 to 7 with the minerals present indicated.

Figure 10.

ATR FTIR point analyses for identification of the constituents of paint cross sections. Examples of several measured spectra on the cross section P3 of the Caspar David Friedrich painting ‘Mönch am Meer’, ANG showing the presence of smalt in layers 5 and 6. Characteristic absorption bands of the Co-glass smalt are at ~1080 cm–1.

Figure 10.

ATR FTIR point analyses for identification of the constituents of paint cross sections. Examples of several measured spectra on the cross section P3 of the Caspar David Friedrich painting ‘Mönch am Meer’, ANG showing the presence of smalt in layers 5 and 6. Characteristic absorption bands of the Co-glass smalt are at ~1080 cm–1.

Figure 11.

(a) Leather wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’, 17th c. kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. I D 37597, digital micrographs of: (b) a detail (× 5 objective) showing different hues and (c) a repaired area.

Figure 11.

(a) Leather wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’, 17th c. kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. I D 37597, digital micrographs of: (b) a detail (× 5 objective) showing different hues and (c) a repaired area.

Figure 12.

Micro XRF spectrum of ‘The Island of Formosa’ leather wall hanging kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. (I D 37597), spot 43_16_139_blue in the blue corners, showing the presence of K, Fe, Co, Ni, As, Pb and traces of Ca, Ba, Cu and Zn.

Figure 12.

Micro XRF spectrum of ‘The Island of Formosa’ leather wall hanging kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. (I D 37597), spot 43_16_139_blue in the blue corners, showing the presence of K, Fe, Co, Ni, As, Pb and traces of Ca, Ba, Cu and Zn.

Figure 13.

In situ micro-Raman spectrum of carbon black identified on the black area of ‘The Island of Formosa’ leather wall hanging kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. I D 37597.

Figure 13.

In situ micro-Raman spectrum of carbon black identified on the black area of ‘The Island of Formosa’ leather wall hanging kept in the Ethnologisches Museum in Berlin, Inv. No. I D 37597.

Figure 14.

Macro-XRF Hg L map of eleven scanned zones superimposing the X-ray radiography of the Gustave Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé’, Musée d’Orsay, Inv. No. RF 338 and the two hidden compositions indicated in yellow (first one) and red (second composition)

Figure 14.

Macro-XRF Hg L map of eleven scanned zones superimposing the X-ray radiography of the Gustave Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé’, Musée d’Orsay, Inv. No. RF 338 and the two hidden compositions indicated in yellow (first one) and red (second composition)

Figure 15.

Photograph of the area of the XRF mapping in area 2 of the wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’.

Figure 15.

Photograph of the area of the XRF mapping in area 2 of the wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’.

Figure 16.

XRF-maps for (a) Hg Lα and (b) Pb Lα in area 2 of the wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’. The intensity bar ranges from blue (low intensity) to red (high intensity) of the X-ray line.

Figure 16.

XRF-maps for (a) Hg Lα and (b) Pb Lα in area 2 of the wall hanging ‘The Island of Formosa’. The intensity bar ranges from blue (low intensity) to red (high intensity) of the X-ray line.

Figure 17.

(a) Portable XRF image of a bison of the Great Ceiling at Rouffignac cave, Dordogne, France, (b) parts of the figures of ibex 113 and bison 114 reconsidered as a function of the chemical composition of the strokes.

Figure 17.

(a) Portable XRF image of a bison of the Great Ceiling at Rouffignac cave, Dordogne, France, (b) parts of the figures of ibex 113 and bison 114 reconsidered as a function of the chemical composition of the strokes.

Figure 18.

Part of a mural painting from cave 8 (Chinese numeration, Inv. No. MIK III 8426), Asian Art Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

Figure 18.

Part of a mural painting from cave 8 (Chinese numeration, Inv. No. MIK III 8426), Asian Art Museum, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Stiftung Preußischer Kulturbesitz.

Figure 19.

Pigments found by Riederer (1977) as a function of the location of the Buddhist site and the time of origin of the paintings. Adapted from Egel et al. (2015).

Figure 19.

Pigments found by Riederer (1977) as a function of the location of the Buddhist site and the time of origin of the paintings. Adapted from Egel et al. (2015).

Figure 20.

The quality of the lapis lazuli used can vary significantly resulting in variable colour intensity.

Figure 20.

The quality of the lapis lazuli used can vary significantly resulting in variable colour intensity.

Figure 21.

Red-violet area of the hair on the head of the figure depicted on the wall painting fragment III 4458b, Temple α, Khocho, Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin).

Figure 21.

Red-violet area of the hair on the head of the figure depicted on the wall painting fragment III 4458b, Temple α, Khocho, Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin).

Figure 22.

Depth profile at analysis location no. 11 on the Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé;’ corresponding to the lips of the woman in one of the hidden compositions (graph modified from Reiche et al., 2016).

Figure 22.

Depth profile at analysis location no. 11 on the Courbet painting ‘L’homme blessé;’ corresponding to the lips of the woman in one of the hidden compositions (graph modified from Reiche et al., 2016).

Table 1.

Selected mineral pigments of archaeological and art-historical relevance with the chemical formula of the colouring compound and, in the case of synthetic pigments, the date of production.

Colour and mineral classes with chemical formula and first date of use or invention in parenthesesWhiteYellowOrangeRedVioletGreenBlueBrown/black
Silicates     Egyptian Green Cu-glassLazurite/Lapis Lazuli Na8-10Al6Si6O24S2-4fff Cuprorivaite/Egyptian blue CaCuSi4O10 Smalt Co-glass Chrysocolla Cu2–xAlx (H2–xSi2O5)(OH)4)·nH2O (x<1) Aerinite 
Sulfides Orpiment As2S3 Cadmium Yellow (1825) cadmium sulfide CdS, C.I. Pigment Yellow 37Cadmium sulfoselenide CdS + CdSe. Depending on the S/Se ratio, C.I. Pigment Orange 20Realgar As2S3 Cinnabar HgS Zinc cadmium sulfide, CdS + ZnS, C.I. Pigment Yellow 35  
  Greenokite (Ca4(Al,-Fe,Mg)10- Si12O35(OH)12CO3·-12H2O) Cadmium red (Cadmium sulfoselenide) (1910) CdS + CdSe Depending on the S/Se ratio, C.I. Pigment Red 108    
oxides and hydroxidesAnastase (1920) TiO2 Rutile (1938) TiO2 Antimony white (1920) senarmontite Sb2O3 Zinc white (1835) zincite ZnOGoethite / yellow ochre α-FeOOH Lead-tin yellow Pb2SnO4 (type I)PbSnO3 (type II) Massicot PbO Haematite/red ochre Fe2O3 Minium Pb3O4 Viridian Cr2O3.nH2O Paolo Veronese Green, Chrome green (1809) Atacamite / Paratacamite Cu2(OH)3Cl Magnetite (Prehistory?/1920?) Fe3O4 Maghemite γ-Fe2O3 Manganese oxides and hydroxides (bixbyite, braunite, hausmannite, hollandite, polianite, pyrolusite, romanechite…) MnO2+Mn2O3 Jacobsite, MnFe2O4 Antimony black Sb2O3 Manganese and iron oxides (Mn, Fe)3O4 Cobalt oxide Co2O3
carbonatesChalk CaCO3 Lead white 2PbCO3Pb(OH)2 Huntite Mg3Ca(CO3)4    Malachite CuCO3(OH)2Azurite Cu(CO3)2Cu(OH)2 
nitrates Cobalt yellow (1848) K3[Co(NO2)6nH2OCobalt nitrate Co(NO3)2·6H2O     
sulfatesGypsum CaSO4·2H2O Hemihydrate/bassanite/plaster of Paris CaSO4·0.5H2O Anhydrite CaSO4 Permanent white (1830) baryte BaSO4 apatite ivory or bone white Ca5(PO4)3OH zinc phosphate Zn3(PO4)2    Posnjakite Cu(SO4)  
Phosphates     Bone turquoise or odontolite Mn5+ doped apatite Ca5(PO4)3OH Vivianite Fe3(PO4) 8(H2O)  
arsenite     Scheele’s Green copper hydrogen arsenite CuHAsO3 (1775)  
organic compounds     Verdigris Cu(CH3COO)2·nCu(OH)2Prussian blue (1704) Fe4[Fe(CN)6]3 Indigo Indigotine C16H10N2O2Carbon Graphite C
mixed / hybrid compoundsLithopone (1853) ZnO + BaSO4Naples Yellow Pb(SbO3)2/Pb3(SbO4)2 Chrome yellow (1797) 2PbSO4·PbCrO4 Maya Yellow dehydro-indigo (indigoides) associated with palygorskite (Mg,Al)2-Si4O10(OH)·4(H2O) crocoite chrome red (1809) PbCrO4·Pb(OH)2Cobalt violet (1775) CoO·Al2O3Cobalt green (1780) CoO·5ZnO Emerald green (1814) Cu(CH3COO)2·3Cu(AsO2)2 Cadmium green (Cadmium yellow CdS + viridian Cr2O3.nH2OManganese blue BaSO4·Ba(MnO4)2 Maya Blue indigo-palygorskite (Mg,Al)2 Si4O10(OH)·4(H2O)Ivory or bone black C + Ca5(PO4)3OH (apatite)
Colour and mineral classes with chemical formula and first date of use or invention in parenthesesWhiteYellowOrangeRedVioletGreenBlueBrown/black
Silicates     Egyptian Green Cu-glassLazurite/Lapis Lazuli Na8-10Al6Si6O24S2-4fff Cuprorivaite/Egyptian blue CaCuSi4O10 Smalt Co-glass Chrysocolla Cu2–xAlx (H2–xSi2O5)(OH)4)·nH2O (x<1) Aerinite 
Sulfides Orpiment As2S3 Cadmium Yellow (1825) cadmium sulfide CdS, C.I. Pigment Yellow 37Cadmium sulfoselenide CdS + CdSe. Depending on the S/Se ratio, C.I. Pigment Orange 20Realgar As2S3 Cinnabar HgS Zinc cadmium sulfide, CdS + ZnS, C.I. Pigment Yellow 35  
  Greenokite (Ca4(Al,-Fe,Mg)10- Si12O35(OH)12CO3·-12H2O) Cadmium red (Cadmium sulfoselenide) (1910) CdS + CdSe Depending on the S/Se ratio, C.I. Pigment Red 108    
oxides and hydroxidesAnastase (1920) TiO2 Rutile (1938) TiO2 Antimony white (1920) senarmontite Sb2O3 Zinc white (1835) zincite ZnOGoethite / yellow ochre α-FeOOH Lead-tin yellow Pb2SnO4 (type I)PbSnO3 (type II) Massicot PbO Haematite/red ochre Fe2O3 Minium Pb3O4 Viridian Cr2O3.nH2O Paolo Veronese Green, Chrome green (1809) Atacamite / Paratacamite Cu2(OH)3Cl Magnetite (Prehistory?/1920?) Fe3O4 Maghemite γ-Fe2O3 Manganese oxides and hydroxides (bixbyite, braunite, hausmannite, hollandite, polianite, pyrolusite, romanechite…) MnO2+Mn2O3 Jacobsite, MnFe2O4 Antimony black Sb2O3 Manganese and iron oxides (Mn, Fe)3O4 Cobalt oxide Co2O3
carbonatesChalk CaCO3 Lead white 2PbCO3Pb(OH)2 Huntite Mg3Ca(CO3)4    Malachite CuCO3(OH)2Azurite Cu(CO3)2Cu(OH)2 
nitrates Cobalt yellow (1848) K3[Co(NO2)6nH2OCobalt nitrate Co(NO3)2·6H2O     
sulfatesGypsum CaSO4·2H2O Hemihydrate/bassanite/plaster of Paris CaSO4·0.5H2O Anhydrite CaSO4 Permanent white (1830) baryte BaSO4 apatite ivory or bone white Ca5(PO4)3OH zinc phosphate Zn3(PO4)2    Posnjakite Cu(SO4)  
Phosphates     Bone turquoise or odontolite Mn5+ doped apatite Ca5(PO4)3OH Vivianite Fe3(PO4) 8(H2O)  
arsenite     Scheele’s Green copper hydrogen arsenite CuHAsO3 (1775)  
organic compounds     Verdigris Cu(CH3COO)2·nCu(OH)2Prussian blue (1704) Fe4[Fe(CN)6]3 Indigo Indigotine C16H10N2O2Carbon Graphite C
mixed / hybrid compoundsLithopone (1853) ZnO + BaSO4Naples Yellow Pb(SbO3)2/Pb3(SbO4)2 Chrome yellow (1797) 2PbSO4·PbCrO4 Maya Yellow dehydro-indigo (indigoides) associated with palygorskite (Mg,Al)2-Si4O10(OH)·4(H2O) crocoite chrome red (1809) PbCrO4·Pb(OH)2Cobalt violet (1775) CoO·Al2O3Cobalt green (1780) CoO·5ZnO Emerald green (1814) Cu(CH3COO)2·3Cu(AsO2)2 Cadmium green (Cadmium yellow CdS + viridian Cr2O3.nH2OManganese blue BaSO4·Ba(MnO4)2 Maya Blue indigo-palygorskite (Mg,Al)2 Si4O10(OH)·4(H2O)Ivory or bone black C + Ca5(PO4)3OH (apatite)

Contents

GeoRef

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