Sunday, August 9, 2015

CSI-type analysis will reveal secrets of the Versailles sleigh's painter.

The sides of the sleigh were evidently decorated with silver leaf having transparent, colored glazes of red, green and yellow over the silver.  This is all masked by a brown varnish.  How much can these colors be revealed without damaging them ? 
Samples tiny as a pinhead were examined under the microscope under visible light, and under different types of UV light yielding fluorescence (above, a sample from the side of the sleigh).  Layers invisible in normal light suddenly appear (I thank Jan Hobot of Cardiff University School of Medicine and the Centre of Biotechnology staff for use of their fluorescence microscope). Having travelled with me from France to Wales, this and other samples are now in Boston.  There, scientists Richard Newman and Michelle Derrick of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts will use scanning electron microscopy and micro-spectroscopy to reveal technical secrets of the artist working at Versailles in the 1730s, and those of an early restorer (made of King Louis XV, the sleigh was likely restored for Louis XVI).

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