Breaking down banners: analytical approaches to determining the materials of painted banners

Smith, M.J. , Thompson, K. and Hermens, E. (2016) Breaking down banners: analytical approaches to determining the materials of painted banners. Heritage Science, 4, 23. (doi: 10.1186/s40494-016-0095-0)

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Background: This paper investigates a range of analytical techniques to yield information about the materials and processes used in making painted banners. A textile conservator, technical art historian and paintings conservator, and materials scientist have joined forces to develop a greater understanding of the potential of analytical findings in the identification of materials. Results: Visual examination using low level magnification and microscopy proved to be a crucial starting point and for identification of areas for further analysis. High magnification microscopy of cross sections was invaluable to gather information regarding the build-up of the layers, their interaction and condition. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of ion-milled samples showed that different areas of the banner had been prepared in different ways. SEM-EDX (scanning electron microscopy energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy) confirmed the presence of the main elements of pigments. Raman enabled identification of specific pigments. Raman also provided confirmation of specific materials (such as the paint filler). Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy with attenuated total reflectance (FTIR-ATR) enabled the identification of oil and resin, confirmation of pigments and fibres. Thin layers made sampling and identification challenging. Presence of materials such as silk and lead white dominated some analysis making interpretation of other materials more difficult. Conclusions: Sample preparation had a significant bearing on the effectiveness of the analysis. Ion-milling provided high quality surface on the cross section samples that enabled material interfaces to be clearly seen. The challenges of finding effective wavelengths for analysis of samples using Raman were clearly evident in this study. Microscopy showed fibres blends, easily missed using FTIR, whereas FTIR was particularly effective in the identification of man-made fibres. While portable instrumentation may be useful, for in-depth understanding of the heterogeneous layered materials sample taking still remains crucial. Commercial makers used many typical grounds and pigments but these were used sparingly, in thin layers, in order to produce a flexible object and also perhaps to reduce costs. The textile was however of high quality, in this case silk. Unexpectedly, the preparation layers do not appear to be consistent across the banner; the reasons for this need further investigation.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Smith, Dr Margaret and Thompson, Mrs Karen and Hermens, Dr Erma
Authors: Smith, M.J., Thompson, K., and Hermens, E.
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Journal Name:Heritage Science
Publisher:BioMed Central Ltd.
ISSN (Online):2050-7445
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2016 The Authors
First Published:First published in Heritage Science 4: 23
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
662721Situating Pacific barkcloth production in time and placeFrances LennardArts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)AH/M00886X/1CCA - HISTORY OF ART