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Research confirms Renaissance painting

Scientific analyses of paint from a Madonna and Child painting have supported the attribution of the work to the Renaissance period.

The first detailed report of the Raman spectroscopic studies of paint specimens from this artwork has been published (February 2007) in a paper by Professor Howell Edwards (Chemical & Forensic Sciences, University of Bradford) and Timothy Benoy (The de Brecy Trust) in a special issue of the international scientific journal, Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, devoted to Art and Archaeology applications.

The painting, which is known as the 'de Brécy Tondo', depicts the central figures of Raphael's celebrated Sistine Madonna, displayed in Dresden, has been the subject of over twenty years' academic research carried out in the UK and internationally.

The paper, published in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, describes the application of laser Raman microscopic non-destructive analysis to the molecular characterisation of pigments and their binding media which formed a vital part of the wider-ranging analytical investigation of the painting.

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Crucially, materials identified in the Raman spectroscopic study include the lead-based yellow pigment massicot, which was effectively superseded by other yellow pigments after 1700, and a vegetable-derived medium of a starch-based glue that was typical of Renaissance practice.

Scientific molecular and elemental analyses of paint specimens and their substrate from a Madonna and Child painting have been undertaken in eight independent European analytical laboratories and support historical and stylistic conclusions that are consistent with the attribution of the work to the Renaissance period – lasting between the 14th and 16th centuries.

Howell Edwards, Professor of Molecular Spectroscopy and Head of the Division of Chemical and Forensic Sciences at the University of Bradford, said: “From these analytical findings, I am entirely confident that the tondo painting is consistent with an early, pre-1700, Renaissance work."

Timothy Benoy, Honorary Secretary of The de Brecy Trust, said: "The Trust is delighted to have confirmed that these latest scientific techniques give further support to its views that the Tondo is a work from the Renaissance period.”

Emma Banks | alfa
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