Non-destructive, small-scale analysis of cultural heritage objects with Empyrean

X-ray diffraction (XRD) is a powerful tool for studying cultural heritage objects. By identifying crystalline pigments, it can determine the materials used, whether alteration or corrosion has taken place, how the objects were made, and their originality. To protect and preserve the artifacts, this analysis must be non-destructive.

When working with smaller-sized objects, researchers often need to analyze on a sub-millimeter scale. Microdiffraction is ideal for these cases. This application note outlines the process and results of non-destructive microdiffraction with the Empyrean diffractometer on the pigments in a parchment leaf from a medieval Book of Hours.

Books of Hours were Christian devotional books used by wealthy men and women, typically containing a calendar of church feasts, excerpts from the Bible, psalms, and other prayers. They were produced in France, Belgium, the southern Netherlands, southern and western Germany, northern Spain, and southern England. Paris and its surroundings were a major center of production.

Known examples of these parchments date from the 13th to the early 16th century (when they were replaced by printed books) and range from simple to elaborate. The parchment leaf tested was written and painted around 1470 in Paris, France, and contains the ‘Obsecro te’, a 14-15th century prayer to the Virgin Maria. It is richly decorated, from a private collection, and measures 163 x 123 mm.

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