Kalypso Milanou, 2001

Pigment analysis

Wednesday 4 March 2009, by Icon Network

All the versions of this article:

Pigment analysis and other scientific methods
Benaki Museum research programme. Pigment analysis and other scientific methods on three icons dating in the 13th century.

The Benaki Museum icons and paintings conservation department participated to a research program consisting on the study and conservation of three important icons dating in the 13th century, the two of them belonging to the Benaki Museum collection and the third to a private collection in Athens.

The two Benaki Museum icons are the following:

- The icons of “Virgin with child surrounded by Saints” (no. 32650), Dimensions 85 X 64 cm. On the Central composition we distinguish the Theotokos holding the Child on her right hand, on the upper side there is a “Deisis with angels” and on the vertical sides there are Apostles and Saints. The particularity of the icon is the relief of the hallows and of the frame surrounding the three sides of the icon. For the first colored layer “Kampos” the iconographer used black pigment.
- The icon of the “Virgin with Child” (no. 3764). Dimensions 63 X 42,5 cm. The figures are presented on a latest golden background hidden by a silver cover (riza). The icon has a sculpted frame on the same wood of the panel “skafoto”. The total research about this icon will be published to the “Acts of the Christian Archeological Society” during 2002.

Virgin with Child
Virgin with Child
(no. 32650)

- The Icon belonging to a private collection is a double sided icon representing Saint Nicolas on the first side and the “Virgin Hodegitria” on the second side. Dimensions 76 X 56,3 cm.
First Side: Saint Nicolas. Sculpted frame surround the icon and the Central composition. In the Central composition Saint Nicolas is represented having an added hallow. On the lower part of the frame only some fragments are conserved representing four scenes of Saint Nicolas life. The background is from silver.
Second Side: “Virgin Hodegitria” The composition is surrounded by a sculpted frame “skafoto”. The figures are painted on a silver background (photo 4). The Icon was presented during the “Mother of God. Representations of the Virgin in the Byzantine Art” exhibition. Benaki Museum 20 October 2000 to 20 January 2001.

The information concerning the technology of those 13th century icons, are very precious for the research on objects of a similar value. The technical and the constitutive materials were studied by using photographic methods, observation of the paint layer through binocular and analysis of the pigments through electronic microanalysis of stromatography samples.


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