Byzantine wall paintings from Mani (Greece): microanalytical investigation of pigments and plasters

Anal Bioanal Chem. 2009 Dec;395(7):2061-71. doi: 10.1007/s00216-009-2967-6.


The present case study concerns the technology of Byzantine wall paintings from the Mani Peninsula, Greece. An assemblage of 12 Byzantine churches, constructed in the tenth to fifteenth century, was included in an initial analytical survey. Two random samples of wall paintings were taken in each monument in order to study their micro stratigraphy and the composition of pigment and plaster layers. Polished sections were fabricated for examination with optical microscopy and scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Furthermore, selected samples were powdered and analysed with Fourier-transformed infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) and X-ray diffraction (XRD). The analytical results achieved in this case study provided general conclusions concerning painting techniques for wall paintings in a rather provincial area of the Byzantine Empire. The palette comprised mainly earthen pigments like ochres and carbon black but occasionally also other pigments like cinnabar, minium and ultramarine. In view of future studies, a portable X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF) set-up was tested.