Chemical-analytical research into the aging processes in painted chambers

Dr. Katrien Keune

Katrien Keune performs scientific research on painted wall hangings and related painted architectural elements. The examination of miniscule paint samples aims to increase knowledge of the paintings’ pigment composition, use of bindings and the succession of paint layers. The analysis of these paint samples is conducted using various techniques, including light and electron microscopy, infrared spectroscopy and mass spectrometry. The analytical data provides insight into the choice of materials and techniques used by the artist.

The painted ensembles are unique because many of them have not been treated over the course of centuries and remain in situ. Some paintings have not been relined, have never been taken off their strainers, and have only been incidentally cleaned. This in sharp contrast to paintings residing in museum collections. Since the painted wall hangings have been left relatively untouched, they form extremely valuable case studies from a chemical and physical viewpoint. The influence of the interior climate on the chemical (e.g. discoloration and/or increased transparency of paint) and physical condition of paint systems (formation of craquelure) can be investigated very well in the paintings selected for this study. The knowledge that is subsequently obtained also leads to a better understanding of aging processes in paintings that are now in museums, and as such can help improve exhibition and preservation conditions for those works as well.

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