2021-05-28Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/24554
Trace compounds in Early Medieval Egyptian blue carry information on provenance, manufacture, application, and ageing
Only a few scientific evidences for the use of Egyptian blue in Early Medieval wall paintings in Central and Southern Europe have been reported so far. The monochrome blue fragment discussed here belongs to the second church building of St. Peter above Gratsch (South Tyrol, Northern Italy, fifth/sixth century A.D.). Beyond cuprorivaite and carbon black (underpainting), 26 accessory minerals down to trace levels were detected by means of Raman microspectroscopy, providing unprecedented insights into the raw materials blend and conversion reactions during preparation, application, and ageing of the pigment. In conjunction with archaeological evidences for the manufacture of Egyptian blue in Cumae and Liternum and the concordant statements of the antique Roman writers Vitruvius and Pliny the Elder, natural impurities of the quartz sand speak for a pigment produced at the northern Phlegrean Fields (Campania, Southern Italy). Chalcocite (and chalcopyrite) suggest the use of a sulphidic copper ore, and water-insoluble salts a mixed-alkaline flux in the form of plant ash. Not fully reacted quartz crystals partly intergrown with cuprorivaite and only minimal traces of silicate glass portend solid-state reactions predominating the chemical reactions during synthesis, while the melting of the raw materials into glass most likely played a negligible role.
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This article was supported by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Open Access Publication Fund of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.