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Micro X-ray diffraction of cultural properties

Summer 2015 Volume 31, No. 2
Yurika Takumi and Masataka Maeyama

There are two basic objectives in scientific analysis of tangible cultural properties: appraisal of authenticity, and investigation of materials for purposes of preservation or restoration. Targets of these analyses are buildings, sculptures, paintings, craft objects, old documents and so on.

Many art and craft items have become the objects of speculation by collectors throughout the world. As a result, the field has an aspect that drives incidents of theft and forgery of and damage to works by improper restoration. In the case of paintings, it is not unusual even with famous works for the artist himself to make changes in the underlying sketch or picture composition prior to completion, or for a third party to work on the picture after the artist has died. One such example is the “Madonna del Granduca”(1505) by Raphael. This image of the Madonna and Child, which was publicly exhibited in Japan for the first time in March 2013, is known for having a jet-black background—a feature not seen in other works by Raphael. During the exhibition of this masterpiece of the Madonna and Child painting genre, the results of scientific analysis of the jet-black area were also presented. An X-ray image taken in 1984 showed that Raphael had originally painted a different scene in the background, but that scene had been covered with jet-black paint by someone in a later generation.

To determine authenticity by analyzing the painting process and the time and place where the materials were produced, it is essential not only to carry out verification by humanities or social sciences, but also to analyze based on the knowledge of natural science using the results available from X-ray equipment.


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