27 September 2011

Thesis: Varnishes from historical musical instruments (2010)

Title: Characterization of the varnishes from historical musical instruments
Author: Francesco Caruso
University: University of Palermo
Type of document: PhD
Year: 2010
Link: http://box.net/... (pdf, 9.1 Mb)

Note: download with permission of the author.


The characterization of materials such as glues, paints, pigments, binders and varnishes used to create artworks, continues to provide art historians and conservators with precious information. Such a knowledge enables restoration and conservation processes to be carried out properly without causing any damage to the original artefacts and also helps to understand the techniques used by the artists. The varnishing of musical instruments has been an interesting debating point since the end of the 19th century for lute-makers and industries focused onto the (re)production of high quality instruments. To date, there is considerable scientific interest in recovering the original formulations (the secrets of the old masters) and transferring such knowledge to restorers, conservators, lute-makers and musicologists. Ample scientific efforts have been made to identify the organic and the inorganic portions of the surface layers of several historical stringed instruments, although the interest has mainly been focused on North-Italian ones. This doctoral dissertation is devoted to the use of a non standard multianalytical method for the characterization of the varnish of a selection of historical stringed musical instruments from the "Musical Instruments Museum" in Brussels and the "Vincenzo Bellini" Conservatory in Palermo. A series of non-destructive and micro-destructive instrumental techniques was applied for obtaining information about the composition of the varnishes of the instruments. Particular attention was given to the implementation of a Curie Point Pyrolysis Gas Chromatography coupled with Mass Spectrometry methodology for the study of the organic portions of the micro-samples without any special pre-treatment. This is the first systematic scientific work on the art works of such collections and one of the few in the field of chemical sciences applied to the conservation of historical musical instruments.

Table of contents (short version):

1. Introduction
1.1. History of the collection of the \Vincenzo Bellini" Conservatory in Palermo
1.2. History of the \Musical Instruments Museum" in Brussels
1.3. Scientific studies on the varnish of historical musical instruments
1.4. The analysed instruments and their labels
2. Experimental
2.1. Non destructive techniques
2.2. Micro-destructive techniques
3. Results and discussion
3.1. Non destructive techniques
3.2. Micro-destructive techniques
4. Conclusions
A. XRF results on the instruments from the "Musical Instruments Museum" in Brussels
B. FTIR spectra and band assignments of reference materials
C. Scientific activity

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