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Microstructure imaging of Florentine stuccoes through X-ray tomography: A new insight on ancient plaster-making techniques

Abstract : Gypsum-based plasters or stuccoes, in spite of their importance and diffusion, received little attention in cultural heritage materials studies. This work introduces a new, non-destructive methodology, using micro-tomography to measure the water/plaster ratio and the morphology of the hemihydrate powder used to make plasters on < 1 mm3 samples. This methodology give insight in both the raw material (and ultimately provenance) and the technique used to make plaster. The methodology was tested first on mock-up samples of known composition, then in a case study on 13 low-relief cast plaster sculptures from 15th century Florentine artists. Preliminary conclusions on this limited corpus show relative uniformity across most reliefs in terms of raw materials and techniques. The casts of one model (Nativity, attributed to Donatello and B. Bellano) were made with a different raw material, in line with prior geochemical analyses; these results support the previous attribution to a North Italian rather than Florentine origin. The casts of a second model (Virgin and Child, type of Saint Petersburg, attributed to Antonio Rossellino) were prepared with a different technique. This surprising result was not expected from Art History or previous studies.
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Florian Beaugnon, Gianluca Gariani, Emmanuelle Gouillart, Anne Bouquillon, Marc Bormand, et al.. Microstructure imaging of Florentine stuccoes through X-ray tomography: A new insight on ancient plaster-making techniques. Journal of Cultural Heritage, Elsevier, 2019, ⟨10.1016/j.culher.2018.05.003⟩. ⟨hal-02187188⟩

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