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The study of the mural painting in the 12th century monastery of Santa Maria delle Cerrate (Puglia-Italy): characterization of materials and techniques used


Correspondence to: Giuseppe E. De Benedetto, Laboratorio di Spettrometria di Massa Analitica ed Isotopica, Dipartimento di Beni Culturali, Università del Salento, Edificio M, campus Ecotekne, s.p. Lecce-Monteroni, I-73100 Lecce, Italy



A multidisciplinary research was conducted by the University of Salento in collaboration with the Lecce Provincial Museum, in order to study different forms of art widespread in the Salento peninsula (Southern Italy) very valuable from an artistic point of view and important as driving force for the tourism of the area. In this research, the archaeometrical analysis was used to study the first cycle of paintings of the church of Santa Maria delle Cerrate, an italo-greek monastery located in the country about 15 km north-east of Lecce, probably built in the 12th century. Microscopic, chromatographic and spectrometric techniques were used: optical microscopy was used to study samples and the relevant stratigraphy, micro-Raman Spectroscopy to identify pigments and Gas Chromatography with Mass Spectrometric Detection to investigate the techniques masters used to decorate the monastery church. Further information on organic and inorganic materials present in the samples were obtained from Fourier transform infrared analysis in attenuated total reflectance. Materials and techniques were clearly ascertained, and, interestingly, pigments were applied both by fresco and egg-based tempera. Among the various pigments detected, the identification of both lapis lazuli and lead white opened new perspectives both from the historical and conservative points of view. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.