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J Chromatogr A. 2005 Oct 14;1091(1-2):124-36.

Characterisation of wax works of art by gas chromatographic procedures.

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  • 1UMR 171 CNRS and GdR 2114 ChimArt, Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France (C2RMF), Palais du Louvre, Porte des Lions, 14 Quai Franfois Mitterrand, F-75001 Paris, France.


To identify the various natural and synthetic substances used by sculptors at the end of the 19th century, several contemporary reference samples were investigated by high temperature gas chromatography (HT GC) and HT GC-MS. Using specific chromatographic conditions and minimising sample preparation, we could separate, detect and identify a wide range of biomolecular markers covering a great variety of molecular weights and volatilities, with a minimum amount of sample, in a single run. Beeswax, spermaceti, carnauba, candellila and Japan waxes as well as pine resin derivatives, animal fats, paraffin, ozokerite and stearin, used as additives in wax works of art, were chemically investigated. In the case of low volatile compounds, transbutylation was performed. The structure of long-chain esters of spermaceti was elucidated for the first time by HT GC-MS analysis. Such a method was then carried out on 10 samples collected on a statuette of Junon by Antoine-Louis Barye (Louvre Museum, Paris, France) and on a sculpture by Aimé-Jules Dalou (Musée de la Révolution Française, Vizille, France). The analytical results obtained provide new data on the complex recipes elaborated by sculptors at the end of the 19th century.

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