In the science and chemistry of art conservation, vibrational spectroscopy enables conservators to quickly and non-destructively identify compounds found in many art objects. Spectroscopic information can identify counterfeit pieces, establish dates and origins of art works, show earlier attempts to preserve works, and help plan conservation treatments.
Vibrational spectroscopy enables conservators to identify compounds found in many art objects.
Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy is a well-established technique to analyze and identify materials. Due to its ease of use, lack of sample preparation requirements and immediate feedback, FTIR is typically a first-line technique for materials identification. The mid-infrared measurements are particularly useful as they exploit the “fingerprint region” of most compounds. However, many works of art combine both organic materials (varnishes, oils and resins) and inorganic materials such as zinc white, vermilion and orpiment.
Working with the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA), we analyzed a Chinese wardrobe purportedly made in the Qing dynasty (18th century) using a novel conservation tool that combines microspectroscopy with the ability to analyze materials in both the mid- and far-infrared regions.