Holographic Interferometry (HI), Infrared Vision and X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy for the assessment of painted wooden statues: A new integrated approach

Stefano Sfarra, Clemente Ibarra-Castanedo, Stefano Ridolfi, Giorgio Cerichelli, Dario Ambrosini, Domenica Paoletti, Xavier Maldague

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


Wood has been routinely employed in decorative arts, as well as in sculptures and paintings (support) during the Middle Ages, because of its unique aesthetic virtues. It may safely be assumed that wood, as a material for monumental sculpture, was much more commonly employed in the mediaeval period than existing examples would seem to indicate (Bulletin of the metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013). Wood is easily obtainable; it could be carved and put in place with less difficulty than stone, it is chemically stable when dry, and its surface offers a compatible substrate for paint application. However, the use of wood is not without pitfalls, and requires an understanding of its anisotropic and hygroscopic nature. It is also dimensionally unstable and subject to deterioration by fungi and insects. Moisture-related dimensional changes are certainly among the most challenging problems in painting conservation. With the purpose of preventing important damages, the use of non-or microdestructive testing (NDT) techniques is undoubtedly of paramount interest for painted wooden statues of great value. This work has a threefold purpose: (1) to validate the effectiveness of an integrated approach using near-infrared (NIR) reflectography, square pulse thermography (SPT), and holographic interferometry (HI) techniques for discovering old repairs and/or inclusions of foreign materials in a wooden structure, (2) to confirm and approximately date the restoration carried out by x-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectroscopy and energy-dispersive x-ray spectroscopy (EDS) (that is assembled with a scanning electron microscopy - SEM) techniques, and (3) to combine into a multidisciplinary approach two quantitative NDT results coming from optical and thermographic methods. The subject of the present study was a statue named "Virgin with her Child" (XIV century), whose origins are mysterious and not properly documented.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1041-1056
Number of pages16
JournalApplied Physics A: Materials Science and Processing
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Materials Science(all)

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