Alteration of Asian lacquer: in-depth insight using a physico-chemical multiscale approach

Abstract : Oriental lacquer has been used in Asian countries for thousands of years as a durable and aesthetic coating material for its adhesive, consolidating, protective and decorative properties. Although these objects are made from an unusual material in Occident, Western museum collections host many lacquerwares. Curators, restorers and scientists are daily confronted with questions of their conservation and their alteration. The characterization of their conservation state is usually assessed through visual observations. However deterioration often starts at the microscopic level and cannot be detected by a simple visual inspection. Often, ageing and deterioration of artworks are connected to physical, mechanical and chemical transformations. Thus new insight into alteration of lacquer involves the monitoring of macro-, microscopic and molecular modifications, and this can be assessed from physico-chemical measurements. Non-invasive (microtopography and Scanning Electron Microscopy – SEM) and micro-invasive (infrared micro-spectroscopy using a synchrotron source – SR-mFTIR) investigations were performed to study the degradation processes of lacquers and evaluate their level of alteration. In particular, spectral decomposition and fitting procedure were performed in the 1820–1520 cm À1 region to follow the shift of the C]O and C]C band positions during lacquer ageing. The present work proves the potential of this physico-chemical approach in conservation studies of lacquers and in the quantification of the state of alteration. It evidences chemical phenomena of alteration such as oxidation and decomposition of a lacquer polymeric network. It also demonstrates for the first time the degradation front of artificially aged lacquer and the chemical imaging of a more than 2000 years old archaeological lacquer by using SR-mFTIR.
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Anne-Solenn Le Hô, Chloé Duhamel, Céline Daher, Ludovic Bellot-Gurlet, Céline Paris, et al.. Alteration of Asian lacquer: in-depth insight using a physico-chemical multiscale approach. Analyst, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2013, 138, pp.5685 - 5685. ⟨10.1039/c3an00608e⟩. ⟨hal-01481496⟩

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