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Anal Bioanal Chem. 2009 Dec;395(7):2015-20. doi: 10.1007/s00216-009-2997-0.

Multilayers quantitative X-ray fluorescence analysis applied to easel paintings.

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Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France, C2RMF, Palais du Louvre, Porte des Lions, 14 quai François Mitterrand, 75001 Paris, France.


X-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) allows a rapid and simple determination of the elemental composition of a material. As a non-destructive tool, it has been extensively used for analysis in art and archaeology since the early 1970s. Whereas it is commonly used for qualitative analysis, recent efforts have been made to develop quantitative treatment even with portable systems. However, the interpretation of the results obtained with this technique can turn out to be problematic in the case of layered structures such as easel paintings. The use of differential X-ray attenuation enables modelling of the various layers: indeed, the absorption of X-rays through different layers will result in modification of intensity ratio between the different characteristic lines. This work focuses on the possibility to use XRF with the fundamental parameters method to reconstruct the composition and thickness of the layers. This method was tested on several multilayers standards and gives a maximum error of 15% for thicknesses and errors of 10% for concentrations. On a painting test sample that was rather inhomogeneous, the XRF analysis provides an average value. This method was applied in situ to estimate the thickness of the layers a painting from Marco d'Oggiono, pupil of Leonardo da Vinci.


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