Correction of Ultraviolet-Induced Fluorescence Spectra for the Examination of Polychromy

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Ultraviolet-induced fluorescence spectroscopy is a commonly used technique for the characterization and identification of painting materials, such as organic binders and colorants. Its interpretation is strictly connected to both the experimental setup and an understanding of the physical and chemical interactions among materials in paint layers, which are commonly composed of a fluorescent organic binder and a pigment. When irradiated with ultraviolet radiation, the light emitted by fluorophores present in the organic binder undergoes several types of interactions, in particular scattering and absorption by neighboring pigmented particles and auto-absorption. As a result of scattering and absorption phenomena, the emission spectrum is deformed according to the physical properties of the surrounding pigmented particles. This can lead to shifts of the emission maxima and/or to the formation of apparent new emission bands. The extent of the modifications to the emission spectra, caused by auto-absorption and selective absorption phenomena, may lead to the erroneous characterization or identification of the fluorescent materials. As a consequence, the interpretation of the emission signal can be greatly compromised. A correction based on the Kubelka–Munk theory is proposed to evaluate the extent of the spectral distortion and is assessed on modern replicas of wall paintings of known composition. Although the model cannot be applied to all cases, qualitative distinctions between real and apparent emissions are achieved.


Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN UK; The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG UK 2: SMAArt, Department of Chemistry, University of Perugia, via Elce di Sotto 8, 06123 Perugia Italy 3: ULTRAS-CNR-INFM and IFN-CNR, Politecnico di Milano, Dipartimento di Fisica, Piazza Leonardo da Vinci, 32, 20133 Milan, Italy 4: Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London, WC2R 0RN UK 5: The Getty Conservation Institute, 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California 90049

Publication date: December 1, 2008

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