MOLAB at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Beginning the research project - June 2013
During this first phase, seven of the eleven works were examined with non-invasive techniques by technicians of the mobile laboratory MOLAB (CNR-ISTM, SMAArt, INO - CNR) and the Laboratory of Diagnostics of Spoleto. Costanza Miliani, coordinator of MOLAB, explained: “The MOLAB employs state of the art equipment for precise elemental (X-ray fluorescence) and molecular (Raman spectroscopy, FTIR, UV-VIS fluorescence) analysis, both punctual and imaging, of pigments and binding mediums through multispectral reflectography VIS-NIR, with the goal of identifying the artist’s technique and the state of conservation of the works.”
The initiative was made possible by the 2013-2014 EU-funded project CHARISMA (Cultural Heritage Advanced Research Infrastructures: Synergy for a Multidisciplinary Approach to Conservation/Restoration), which provided access to the most advanced scientific instrumentations and knowledge for the conservation of artworks.
Interview with Costanza Miliani, MOLAB Coordinator
What kind of investigations did you conduct on Pollock’s works, and with which instruments?
We conducted the first analysis campaign on a selection of seven paintings that included The Moon Woman and Alchemy, between 11 and 14 of June 2013. The MOLAB laboratory was installed in one of the exhibition rooms of the museum, where we carried out punctual measures with elemental and molecular techniques, and NIR imaging measures, also in UV-vis fluorescence. The UV-vis fluorescence determined the chemical elements present in the paint, which gave us insight into the pigments’ nature and preparation. We achieved the molecular identification of the pigments thanks to spectroscopies in infrared, Raman, and UV-vis in absorption.The binders and the alteration products were characterized by FTIR spectroscopies in both medium and close range infrareds. Images in visible fluorescence induced by UV light revealed information on the distribution of colorants, while the multi spectral scanning reflexography provided information on the layering of the pictorial surfaces.
Which scientific institutes were involved in the investigation in Venice?
The scientific analyses were conducted by the MOLAB research group of the CNR-ISTM (Istituto di Scienza e Tecnologie Molecolari) and Perugia’s SMAArt (Centro di Eccellenza Scientific Methodologies in Archeology and Art), in collaboration with CNR-INO (Istituto Nazionale di Ottica) in Florence and the Laboratorio di Diagnostica in Spoleto. At MOLAB we are equipped with twelve non-invasive portable instruments (punctual spectroscopies, and imaging methods), and we have decades of experience in the study of the materials that concern cultural heritage. In Italy, the MOLAB laboratory collaborates with central institutes, superintendencies, and numerous museums and art collections. In Europe, financed by the European Community through the project CHARISMA, MOLAB has analyzed medieval and pre-Columbian manuscripts, enameled ceramics, Old Masters paintings by Raphael, Bronzino, van Eyck, Bosch, Memling, and modern and contemporary art paintings by Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, Picasso, Rothko, and others. Thanks to its multi-technical approach, MOLAB recovers information on the molecular composition and distribution of artistic materials, which is useful in the study of pictorial technique, and in assessing states of conservation. In addition, it provides indications for the development and optimization of restoration projects.
Second research campaign – March 2015
Between March 2 and 6 2015, the MOLAB returned to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection to complete the data acquired in the diagnostic campaign begun in 2013 on Jackson Pollock’s works. This second phase of the campaign was possible with the support of the European project IPERION CH (Integrated Platform for the European Research Infrastructure on Cultural Heritage): a consortium created for the dissemination and sharing of the most advanced scientific conservation techniques.
Punctual measures and multispectral imaging allowed a spectral colorimetric analysis of the surfaces, which served to identify the materials that form the pictorial layer. The non-invasive exams provided a series of perfectly superimposable, metrically correct images, also devoid of any chromatic or geometric distortion. This technique enabled comparison of images exposed to different wavelengths, and to visualize clearly their results, without having to enter data and/or insert images.