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Keywords:

  • light microscopy;
  • scanning electron microscopy–x-ray microanalysis;
  • voltammetry of microparticles;
  • Raman spectroscopy;
  • Antonio Palomino;
  • Vicente Guillo;
  • wall painting;
  • colour palette;
  • pigment;
  • binding medium

In 1695, the Valencian artist Vicente Guillo was engaged in painting the vault of the Sant Joan del Mercat church in Valencia, Spain. After preliminary work was carried out, his contract was cancelled. In 1697, Antonio Palomino, renowned for the publication of his technical treatise entitled El Museo Pictorio y Escala Optica, was finally selected as the painter in charge of decorating the vaulted ceiling of Sant Joan del Mercat. This paper reports an analytical study focused on the characterisation and discrimination of the palette and painting procedures used by Palomino and Guillo in the frescoes of Sant Joan del Mercat. For this purpose, Raman spectroscopy combined with light microscopy, scanning electron microscopy–X-ray microanalysis, voltammetry of microparticles, X-ray diffraction, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and gas chromatography–mass spectrometry has been employed.

The use of gypsum as stucco material for the ground layers contrasts with the recommendations made by Palomino in his treatise about the convenience of using slaked lime-sand mortars according to traditional fresco recipes. Although lead-based pigments were not traditionally recommended for frescoes because of their empirically known alterations when subjected to strong alkaline fresco medium, both Guillo and Palomino used them. Palomino, probably supported by his personal experience as a painter, recommended and used Naples yellow, which has been found in a good state of preservation. In contrast, white lead areas found on Guillo's paintings have transformed into lead oxides. Other pigments found in the vaulted ceiling such as smalt, goethite, haematite, azurite and malachite have also undergone substantial changes because of the extreme temperature conditions to which they were subjected in the church. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.