DSC4299 2 Web

Laura Hendriks helps dating medieval polychrome sculptures by 14C analysis

25.08.2021 13:00

Nature Scientific Reports has published a paper co-authored by Branco Weiss Fellow Laura Hendriks. The study discusses new opportunities for studying artworks put forward by the recent technological advances in microscale radiocarbon dating. In the paper, Hendriks and her co-authors demonstrate the possibility of dating polychrome sculptures. The polychromy, an indivisible part of polychrome sculpture, holds a key role in the interpretation and understanding of these artworks.

Unlike in other painted artworks, the study of polychromies is repeatedly hampered by repaints and degradation resulting in an intricate surface consisting of both original and repolychromies. The researchers investigated the pioneering application of 14C analysis on paint samples from the carved limestone sculptures by specifically targeting the lead white pigment and organic binder. The radiocarbon dating survey conducted on 16 Portuguese medieval sculptures confirmed that some were produced within the proposed chronologies while others were revised. According to the researchers the technique proved its potential in guiding the interpretation of the paint stratigraphies and thus opens new oppurtunities in studing artworks. Furthermore they emphasizes that it is fundamental to integrate 14C results within a broader framework, such as the historical background of the artwork and the material and technical analysis of the paint stratigraphy in order to avoid misinterpretation of results.

Read the paper in Nature Scientific Reports