Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 395–404 | Cite as

A multi-analytical approach to investigate date-unknown paintings of Chinese Taoist priests

  • Tao Li
  • Jinxin Ji
  • Zhong Zhou
  • Jilong Shi
Original Paper


This article presents a technical investigation into a set of four artist- and date-unknown paintings of Chinese Taoist priests, which aimed to reveal their fiber source, painting technique, starch-based adhesive, and pigment use for the purpose of future conservation treatment. By using an integrated approach (Herzberg staining, cross-sectioning, starch grain analysis, X-ray fluorescence, Raman spectroscopy, and X-ray diffraction), it turned out clear that (1) bamboo was the primary (if not the only) fiber source; (2) multiple layers were utilized in combination with simply outlining and filling, while paintings were in preparation; (3) wheat flour, a starch-based adhesive, was used to hold together the painting paper and the paper supports underneath; and (4) vermilion, emerald green, synthetic ultramarine blue, orpiment, lead white, and carbon black were used to produce the six main colors on the paintings. The discoveries of emerald green and synthetized ultramarine blue placed the earliest possible manufacturing dates of these paintings around the 1830s.


Paintings Raman spectroscopy Pigment identification Emerald green Synthetic ultramarine blue 



This research would not have been possible without financial support by the National Key Technology R&D Program (No. 2014BAH07F01), Beijing Municipal Science & Technology Commission (No. 2010B034), and Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication Projects (Nos. E-a-2013-21 and E-b-2015-35). Special thanks go to Senior Engineer Shifeng Liu (Horiba Jobin Yvon, Beijing) and Mrs. Qiuju He (Capital Museum, Beijing) for their sincere help in Raman and X-ray fluorescence analyses. The authors would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for offering their insightful comments, which improves the clarity, consistency, and coherence of the paper’s arguments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Printing and Packaging EngineeringBeijing Institute of Graphic CommunicationBeijingChina
  2. 2.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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