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Microscopy and X-Ray Spectroscopy Analyses for Assessment of Gilding and Silvering Techniques of Portuguese Illuminated Manuscripts

  • Agnès Le Gac (a1) (a2), Isabel D. Nogueira (a3), Mauro Guerra (a2), José Carlos Frade (a4), Stéphane Longelin (a2), Marta Manso (a2), Sofia Pessanha (a2), Ana Isabel M. Seruya (a2) and Maria Luisa Carvalho (a2)...


The objects of this study are various local charters (cartas de foral, in Portuguese) granted by Dom Manuel I, King of Portugal (1495–1521), which substituted for medieval ones and were intended to achieve an administrative unification. These are luxuriously illuminated manuscripts, and our study aims at obtaining a better understanding of the gilding and silvering techniques applied to the parchments, in which the forais were written, between 1500 and 1520. The combined use of microscopy and X-ray spectroscopy analyses allowed us to identify the vestigial materials used for making the parchments, including products such as salt (NaCl), lime (CaO), pumice stone (SiO2+Al2O3), and chalk (CaCO3). Chalk was employed as a whitening agent to give the parchment its final color and opacity. Shell-gold and shell-silver mixed in with animal glue or gum binding media were directly applied on type 1 and 3 forais, while very thin gold leaves (<1 µm) were applied over lead-based tempera grounds (50–180 µm thick) in type 2 forais. Silver was always employed in its finest form without a further protective layer (thus its recursive state of corrosion), while gold was used in various alloy grades.


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Microscopy and Microanalysis
  • ISSN: 1431-9276
  • EISSN: 1435-8115
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