Non-destructive monitoring of molecular modifications in the restoration of works of art on paper

Application of theoretical and experimental optical spectroscopy
  • M. MissoriEmail author
  • A. Mosca Conte
  • O. Pulci
  • L. Teodonio
  • S. Dominijanni
  • S. Puteo
  • S. Iannuccelli
  • S. Sotgiu
  • M. L. Sebastiani
Regular Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Focus Point on Past and Present: Recent Advances in the Investigation of Ancient Materials by Means of Scientific Instrumental Techniques


The discoloration of paper, due to the development of oxidized groups acting as chromophores in its chief component, cellulose, is responsible for severe visual degradation of works of art on paper. By adopting a diagnostic method based on in situ non-invasive optical reflectance spectroscopy and time-dependent density functional theory ab initio calculations, it is possible to describe and quantify the chromophores in cellulose fibers in a non-destructive way. In order to recover the absorption coefficient of cellulose fibers from reflectance measurements a specific approach based on the Kubelka-Munk theory was applied. The concentrations of carbonyl groups acting as chromophores were obtained by fitting the experimental optical absorption spectra to those simulated by using ab initio calculations. This method was applied for monitoring the restoration interventions of two great format engravings Le Nozze di Psiche and Gesù Cristo e l’adultera by Diana Scultori (1547-1612), as well as a contemporary artwork by Renato Guttuso, Bozzetto per Crocifissione (dated 1940). All artefacts were affected by chromatic deterioration due to a strong oxidation of the paper. Results quantified the decreasing of chromophores concentration after washing and reducing treatments evidencing the different behavior of the carbonyl groups as a function of the specific protocol performed.


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Copyright information

© Società Italiana di Fisica and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Istituto dei Sistemi ComplessiConsiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Unit SapienzaRomeItaly
  2. 2.ETSF, Dipartimento di FisicaUniversità di Roma Tor VergataRomeItaly
  3. 3.Istituto Centrale per il Restauro e la Conservazione del Patrimonio Archivistico e Librario (ICRCPAL)RomeItaly
  4. 4.Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di RomaUfficio Tutela e ConservazioneRomeItaly

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