Subject: Arts And Humanities, Archaeology Keywords: 15th-century illuminated manuscripts; smalt; bismuth ink; non-invasive analyses; Raman spectroscopy; XRF mapping; UV-vis-NIR reflectance spectroscopy
Online: 12 June 2019 (12:03:01 CEST)
This paper discusses a cross-disciplinary, international collaboration aimed at researching a series of 15th century choir books at the abbey of San Giorgio Maggiore on the homonymous island in Venice. Produced for the abbey itself, the books have never left the island during their 500-years history, thereby allowing a unique opportunity to analyse historic artefacts, which have undergone little modification over time. Prompted by ongoing cataloguing work on the manuscripts, a week-long analytical campaign using a combination of non-invasive analytical methods used in portable configuration allowed the comprehensive characterisation of ten volumes. The manuscripts’ palette and painting techniques were analysed using near-infrared imaging, reflectance spectroscopy in the UV-vis-NIR range, Raman spectroscopy, X-ray fluorescence mapping and digital microscopy. The paper will discuss the challenges linked to the fragility and the large dimensions of the volumes as well as the most interesting results of the investigation. These include the detection of unusual painting materials such as bismuth ink, as well as the discovery of a less homogeneous palette than originally expected, which prompted a partial revision of the attribution of the decoration in one of the volumes to a single artist.