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Analysis of Materials from a Late 15th-Early 16th Century Polychromed Wood Sculpture

  • L. P. Stodulski (a1) and V. J. Dorge (a1)

Abstract

During conservation, The Detroit Institute of Arts' late Gothic carved wooden sculpture, Madonna and Child, was found to have extensive, though fragmentary, remains of the original polychromy and at least four subsequent “restoration” overpaints. The materials present in the original and overpaintings were probed by polarizing microscopic and X-ray diffraction analyses of individual paint specimens, and scanning electron microscopic/energydispersive X-ray analyses of cross sections prepared using an ultramicrotome. Several sections were also studied using ultraviolet fluorescence microscopic staining techniques to determine the nature of the media used.

The pigments identified include azurite, lead white, calcite, vermilion, red lead, hematite, red lakes and glazes, smalt and Prussian blue. Gold and silver metal leafs were also detected. The deteriorated remains of the late Gothic pressed brocade technique, and the use of “bronze” paint to approximate genuine gold leaf on a later addition to the sculpture, are also discussed.

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References

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1 Mr. Barnet, Peter, Associate Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, The Detroit Institute of Arts (private communication).
2 Private communications with polychromed sculpture conservators in Stuttgart, Munich, Brussels and London during Dorge's research trip, April, 1989. Much of this information is based on the conservators' actual experience and observations but has not necessarily been published.
3 The area in question was X-radiographed but the results were inconclusive.
4 The authors realize that a materials analysis diamond knife would probably have produced smoother section surfaces, but one was not available to us at the time.
5 Schweppe, H. and Roosen-Runge, H. in Artists' Pigments, edited by Feller, R. L., (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., 1986), pp. 255256.
6 Thompson, D. V., The Materials of Medieval Painting, 1st ed. (Allen and Unwin, Ltd., London, 1936), pp. 108127.
7 Harley, R. D., Artists' Pigments c. 1600-1835, (American Elsivier Publishing Company, New York, 1970) pp. 120136.
8. Ollermann, E., Farbige Skulpturen, edited by Taubert, J. (Verlag Georg D. W. Callwey, Munich, Germany, 1983), pp. 5159.
9. Buczynski, B. and Krohm, H. in Zeitschrift Für Kunsttechnologie und Konservierung, Heft l, Jahrgang 3 (Wernersche Verlagsgellschaft, Worms-am-Rhein, Germany, 1989), pp. 173175 and p. 188.; R. E. Straub, E. L. Richter, H. Harlin, and W. Barndt, Beiträge Untersuchunq und Konservierung Mittelalterächer Kunstwerke, H. Athäfer, R. E. Straub, E. Willemsen, Landesdenkmalamt Baden-Wurttemberg, Band 4, (Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich, 1974) pp. 9-46.
10 Broekman-Bokstijn, M., Boer, J. R. J. Van Asperen De, Ehrnreich, E. H. Van't Hul- and Verduyn, C. M. - Groen, Studies in Conservation, 15 (4), 370400 (1970).
11 Plenderleith, H. J. and Organ, R. M., Studies in Conservation, 1 (2) 6372 (1953); F. Lihl, ibid., 7 (3), 89-105 (1962).
12 Harley, R.D., Artists' Pigments c. 1600-1835 (American Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1970), pp. 5055 and pp. 65-68.
13 Fleming, S. J. in Authentication in the Visual Arts, edited by Jaffe', H. L. C., Leeuwen, J. S. van and Tweel, L. H. van der (B. M. Isräl BV, Amsterdam, 1979), pp. 104109.
14 Welsh, F. S., Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, 27 (2), 5563 (1988).
15 Gettens, R. J. and Stout, G. L., Paintinq Materials (Dover Publications, New York, 1966), p. 98.; R. D. Harley, Artists Pigments c. 1600-1835 (Americarl Elsevier Publishing Company, New York, 1970), p. 108.
6 Thompson, D. V., The Materials of Medieval Paintiné, 1st. ed. (Allen and Unwin, Ltd., London, 1936).
17 Fitzhugh, E. W. in Artists' Pigments, edited by Feller, R. L. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., 1986), pp. 109114.
18 Gettens, R. J., Köhn, H. and Chase, W. T., Studies in Conservation, 12 (4), 127 (1967).
19 Gettens, R. J., Feller, R. L. and Chase, W. T., Studies in Conservation, 17 (2), 4569 (1972).
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21 Feller, R. L. in Artists' Pigments, edited by Feller, R. L. (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, U.K., 1986), pp. 4750.; H. Kuhn, ibid, pp. 169-172.
22 Barksdale, J., Turner, J. L. and Plechner, W. W. in Protective and Decorative Coatings, Vol II, edited by Mattiello, J. J. (John Wiley and Sons, New York, 1942), p. 389.

Analysis of Materials from a Late 15th-Early 16th Century Polychromed Wood Sculpture

  • L. P. Stodulski (a1) and V. J. Dorge (a1)

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