Study of Mexican Colonial Mural Paintings: An In-situ Non-Invasive Approach


Colonial mural painting developed in Mexico in XVI century after the conquest of the pre-Hispanic cultures following the evangelization process little information exists about the chronology of the paintings and workshops, the painters, the pictorial techniques or the materiality of this art work.

In this work, we present the non-invasive methodology of study of the pigments and other components of nine mural paintings in three colonial Augustinian ex-convents located in Epazoyucan, Actopan and Ixmiquilpan, in the state of Hidalgo, central Mexico. These places were selected not only because of the inherent value and iconographic characteristics of the paintings, which date to the XVI and XVII century, but also because they are in the same region and are well preserved and in good condition. Then it is possible to compare their materiality and get new information to answer to some of questions related to these paintings.

X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) and Raman spectroscopy were conducted using portable equipment on scaffolds after a global examination under ultraviolet light. We were able to distinguish between different pigments used for different colors such as vermillion, orpiment, and a copper pigment, for the bright red, gold yellow, and green, respectively. These pigments are characteristic of the known Mexican Colonial color palette. Apart from this, we also found the presence of indigo in the blues, minium, and cochineal. A first comparison among the mural paintings of the three sites indicates different palettes and painting periods.

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Ruvalcaba-Sil, J.L., Wong-Rueda, M., Garcia-Bucio, M.A. et al. Study of Mexican Colonial Mural Paintings: An In-situ Non-Invasive Approach. MRS Online Proceedings Library 1656, 293–307 (2014).

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