Did you know how the Vatican Museums examine works of art?

Did You Know …

… how the Vatican Museums Examine Works of Art?


Did you know how the Vatican Museums classify painting qualities and techniques? Examining and classifying the works is essential in order to identify the correct age, reworking by the artist and subsequent intervention by others. This information is also necessary to determine the appropriate restoration technique. The Vatican Museums use various tools including an electron microscope to examine the pigments and structures of paintings.

To do so, a small fragment of the painting is embedded in epoxy resin (a synthetic substance), cut with a diamond saw and polished. Following the analysis of the various coats with the aid of a light microscope, the same sample is examined using an electron microscope from ZEISS.

By comparing the results of both examinations, the topographical distribution of the chemical elements may be reconstructed. This is important as it enables insights regarding art history to be gained about the work, its material components and the possible reasons for its decomposition. It also allows forgeries to be detected through the identification of chemical elements, as these can often be associated with particular artistic epochs.

It also allows forgeries to be detected through the identification of chemical elements, as these can often be associated with particular artistic epochs. For instance, it is possible to determine what protective substances are particularly effective. The use of nanoparticles has become increasingly common in recent years. These particles may only be observed with the aid of high-resolution field emission electron microscopes.


20 November 2013

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