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Spectroscopy for Artwork Analysis


Spectroscopy for Artwork Analysis

One of the premier uses for a spectrophotometer is for the conservation and restoration of aged or ancient artwork. The spectrophotometer will be used to measure the color of a sample and match the findings to a known database in order to identify the materials used. This helps researchers determine a crucial information regarding the painting including the time it may have been created as well as the region in which it originated. It can also help authenticate pieces by famous painters through matching the materials to his or her other works. Most importantly, it can be used to help recognize what is causing the artwork to break down, which will make it easier to preserve.

Studying Color with Spectroscopy

A spectrophotometer collects color information about pigment in a particular piece of art and compares it to all the pigments in its system until it finds the closest match. For example, a blue hue on a painting can be viewed with the spectrophotometer and its wavelengths analyzed alongside the wavelengths of other blues. Two different blues may look the same to the human eye, but certain blue pigments were more costly than others. Spectroscopy analysis can reveal when two different pigments were used to create a similar color. For example, ultramarine and azurite may appear comparable in a painting, but ultramarine is a much more expensive pigment and may be used more sparingly. Determining which was used can also place the origin of the painting because certain pigments were only available in certain regions of the world.

Identifying Fakes with a Spectrophotometer

The ability to match pigments to a previously certified piece of artwork can easily determine whether a painting is genuine or not. A newer replica of an ancient piece will read differently because of the different pigments used to create the paints. Also, comparing and contrasting the spectral curves of pigments in different paintings can help discover whether a work of art was completed by the same artist.

For more information on spectrophotometers, visit Sensing.KonicaMinolta.us

Norm Demers

About the Author: 


Norm Demers, Business Development Manager at Konica Minolta Sensing Americas, supports businesses in communicating, measuring, and controlling the color of their products. Norm started working with color back in 1970 at a textile dye lab in Pawtucket, Rhode Island where he was involved with color matching, formulation, and instrumentation. His career in color took off from there and, over a number of years, he built an impressive resume helping businesses develop and implement effective color quality processes. In March of 1997, he joined the Minolta team as an applications engineer, which led to his current position in charge of expanding the company’s Color & Appearance product line into new areas of process control. Today, Norm is considered one of Konica Minolta Sensing’s most knowledgeable experts in the field of color and color measurement. Norm earned his degree in Industrial Engineering with an emphasis on Automatic Process Control at Roger Williams College.


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