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.