The most valuable pigment of the Roman wall paintings was the red color obtained from powdered cinnabar (Minium Cinnabaris pigment), the red mercury sulfide (HgS), which was brought from mercury (Hg) deposits in the Roman Empire. To address the question of whether sulfur isotope signatures can serve as a rapid method to establish the provenance of the red pigment in Roman frescoes, we have measured the sulfur isotope composition (δ(34)S value in ‰ VCDT) in samples of wall painting from the Roman city Aventicum (Avenches, Vaud, Switzerland) and compared them with values from cinnabar from European mercury deposits (Almadén in Spain, Idria in Slovenia, Monte Amiata in Italy, Moschellandsberg in Germany, and Genepy in France). Our study shows that the δ(34)S values of cinnabar from the studied Roman wall paintings fall within or near to the composition of Almadén cinnabar; thus, the provenance of the raw material may be deduced. This approach may provide information on provenance and authenticity in archaeological, restoration and forensic studies of Roman and Greek frescoes.
Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Isotopic analysis of lead present in the cinnabar of Roman wall paintings from the Xth Regio "(Venetia et Histria)" by ICP-MS.Talanta. 2008 Jan 15;74(4):690-3. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2007.06.048. Epub 2007 Jul 25. Talanta. 2008. PMID: 18371694
The Almadén district (Spain): anatomy of one of the world's largest Hg-contaminated sites.Sci Total Environ. 2006 Mar 1;356(1-3):112-24. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2005.04.042. Epub 2005 Jun 13. Sci Total Environ. 2006. PMID: 15950266
Analysis of Roman age wall paintings found in Pordenone, Trieste and Montegrotto.Talanta. 2004 Oct 20;64(3):732-41. doi: 10.1016/j.talanta.2004.03.055. Talanta. 2004. PMID: 18969666
Chronic mercury exposure in Late Neolithic/Chalcolithic populations in Portugal from the cultural use of cinnabar.Sci Rep. 2015 Oct 1;5:14679. doi: 10.1038/srep14679. Sci Rep. 2015. PMID: 26424480 Free PMC article.
Old Masters' lead white pigments: investigations of paintings from the 16th to the 17th century using high precision lead isotope abundance ratios.Analyst. 2005 Jun;130(6):898-906. doi: 10.1039/b418105k. Epub 2005 Apr 15. Analyst. 2005. PMID: 15912239