An Integrated Technical-Technological Investigation of the Archangel Icon in the National Museum in Belgrade

Technical Report, 2016
131 Pages, Grade: A COST Case Study



Chapter I
Preface ... 9
About the editorial staff ... 11
Other participants in the research project ... 12
Support and funding ... 13
Type of case study ... 16
Rationale ... 18
Descriptors ... 20
Scientific Documentation ... 21
Attribution ... 22
Conservation and Restoration ... 22
Exploring Possibilities and Limits of ND Methods ... 23
Interdisciplinary Application ... 24
Information about the cultural heritage object used in the study ... 26
State-of-the-art ... 30
Description of the visual record created, technologies, tools, software/hardware access information and copyright ... 34
Methodology ... 36
Analysis ... 39
Standards employed; data formats and protocols ... 41

Chapter II
Description of outcomes and issues ... 43
Optical microscopy in incident light (2,5 – 10x) ... 43
Macrophotography in VIS/raking light ... 47
Ultraviolet luminescence/fluorescence spectroscopy ... 66
Infrared reflectography ... 76
Plain X-ray ... 93
Computer tomography ... 104
EDXRFS ... 109
Wood identification ... 115
Technical-technological evaluation of the outcomes ... 117
Potential interdisciplinary future work enabled ... 120

Conclusions ... 122

References ... 125

List of illustrations 130


This complex investigation by European and Russian experts was carried out to the purposes to solve the question about the authorship and date of the Archangel icon kept in the National Museum in Belgrade, attributed to the 15th c Novgorod school. It had also the task to explore the possibilities and limits of non-destructive methods in identification, dating and authentication of icon painting, as well as of other types of historic easel painting.

In addition to the various technological methods, the research project included assessment of the outcomes on base of additional information from databases accumulated by leading research and restoration centres in Russia and Eastern Europe.

The authors' purpose was to demonstrate that actually the conditions for authenticity controls are easily available, and that they can be realized at an enough competitively level, making better use of already accumulated experience and using a more common technological base.

Particularly important is to underline that tools for efficient non contact investigation of artefacts are not exclusively the optical techniques and the utilized instruments for themselves, but also the way in which the various data they produce have been assessed. For to transform these informational resources in real knowledge, their mass storage and interactive art historical, technical and technological assessment is of fundamental importance.

The non-destructive methods and techniques used included optical microscopy, macro photography in VIS/raking light, stereo microscopy, ultraviolet luminescence/fluorescence, infrared reflectography, X-ray, EDXRFS, computer tomography, anatomical analysis of wood, micro chemical analysis, and were followed by a comparison and post processing of obtained data and images, allowing to date the icon at the second half of the 19th century (the earlier attribution was 15th century). The icon may have been created by icon painters of the southern regions of the Russian Empire (perhaps in Moldova or Ukraine).

The results created also the conditions for a detailed mapping of its compromised status of conservation and were indispensable for to understand the origin of the damages and select the most adopted consolidation strategy.

In overall, the objective of this case study is oriented towards strengthening the scientific-technological base and reliability of publications on historic painting, advertising “hard” scientists but also art historians about the broad extension of non professional restorations and fakes even in renown museums, and the necessity to consider them with the due attention.

About the editorial staff

Magdelena S. Stoyanova , Ph. D., art historian, restorer, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (Sofia, Bulgaria), visiting professor at CISBI-Ca’Foscari (Venice, Italy) (Centro Interdisciplinare di Studi Balcanici ed Internazionali / Dipartiomento di Studi sull’Asia e Africa), http ://www;

Galina A. Maximova , restorer, culture expert, lecturer, Head of the Laboratory for Restoration of Paintings at the Surikov Art Institute (Moscow, Russia), /.

Anna Ya. Mazina , chemist, Head of the Physical and Chemical Analyses Sector at the Grabar Art Conservation Centre (Moscow, Russia),; lecturer at the Surikov Art Institute (Moscow, Russia), /;

Irina N. Provorova , Ph. D, consultant, biologist, expert in entomology, Russian Research Institute for Restoration (GOSNIIR) (Moscow, Russia), http://www.gos; lecturer at the Surikov Art Institute (Moscow, Russia),, and the Russian State Humanitarian University (Moscow, Russia), http://www.r

Other participants in the research project

Milica Marić Stojanović, chemist, National Museum, Belgrade, Serbia (MMS)

Branka Ivanić, art historian, senior adviser and curator, National Museum, Belgrade, Serbia (BI)

Veljko Ilić, photographer, National Museum, Belgrade, Serbia (VI)

Nikola Krstić, professor, University of Belgrade, Faculty of Veterinary, Laboratory for Radiography, Belgrade, Serbia (NK)

Daniela Korolja Crkvenjakov, Ph. D., Galerija Matica Srpska, Novi Sad, Serbia (DKC)

Tibor Lukic, Ph. D., Institute of Technology, Novi Sad, Serbia (TL)

Maria Pia Morigi, Ph. D., University of Bologna, Department of Physics and Astronomy, Italy (MPM)

Support and funding

The interdisciplinary investigation of the Archangel icon has been implemented in the frame of different projects.

The authors of the report and all project participants express their deep appreciation to the organizations and international cooperation programs, thanks to the support and financing of which the study became possible:

The COST Action TD1021 COSCH, an international program on technical and scientific cooperation dedicated to "Colour and space in cultural heritage";

The National Museum – Belgrade (RS) (NMB);

The University of Belgrade, Faculty of Veterinary, Lab for Radiography;

Galerija Matica Srpska –Novi Sad;

The Departement for Physics and Astronomy, Bologna University ;

The Institute of Mathematics and Informatics, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences;

The Institute of Technology, Novi Sad (IT) .

The authors express their deep gratitude to Irina Nikolaevna Toskina, entomologist, PhD (Russia, Moscow) for her consultations regarding the characteristics of lesions on the icon due to the wood borers and for assistance in determining the taxonomic affiliation of the bugs that caused the destruction of the wooden support.

An integrated technical-technological Investigation of the archangel icon in the National Museum in Belgrade

Project leader: M.S. Stoyanova

Scientific redaction: G.A. Maximova,

A.Ya. Mazina, I.N. Provorova

Translation in Russian: I.N. Provorova

The report represents the results of the exploratory thematic project titled “TOWARDS A MORE EFFICIENT USE OF SPECTRAL TECHNIQUES IN THE ATTRIBUTION OF EASEL PAINTING”, performed in the framework of the international program of scientifictechnical cooperation "Colour and space in cultural heritage" COSCH (COST Action TD1201-COSCH, 2013- 2017), September 2014- July 2015.

The main goal of this study was to establish the originality, date, authorship, and eventual renewals of an icon kept in the Belgrade National Museum (Serbia), which is of high artistic quality, but in a critic stae of conservation.

The tools at disposition for the ND investigation were limited to the visible (Vis) and raking light, ultraviolet reflectance (UVr), infrared reflectance (IRr) microspectroscopy, energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (EDXRFS), plain radiography (X-ray), and computer tomography (CT), completed by the exhaustive databases and knowledge accumulated in the specific sector by leading scientific centres and laboratories in Russia/Eastern Europe. Therefore, our objectives encompass also generation of useful information concerning mainly the technical-technological analyses of tempera, mixed techniques and oil painting; the opportunities for digital image post processing, the correct interpretation of their results as well as innovative ND methods for distinguishing between original and secondary works.

The proposers' purpose was to demonstrate That the conditions for highly reliable authenticity controls that use more common technological base exist, and that such authentications can be realized at an enough competitively level with minimal costs, simply making better use of already accumulated experience.

The STSM work plan was focused on the recognition – interpretation phase of the non destructive (ND) documentation and investigation.

Its main these is that tools for efficient non contact investigation of artefacts are not exclusively the optical techniques and the utilized instruments for themselves. For to transform in real knowledge the information they produce, its mass storage and interactive art historical, technical and technological assessment is of fundamental importance.

Rationale: Why was this study needed? Who is likely to benefit?

This study was needed in first place for the authenticity certification, establishing the supposed datе, place and/or authorship, technique(s) of elaboration, presence of restorative interventions and for mapping the conservation status of the Archangel icon kept in the National Museum in Belgrade.

Concretely on what concerns Russian icon art, this icon represents an interesting occasion to review the publications of the Russian museum's restorers about their rich experience in discovering originals, distinguishing them from fakes and non professional restorations, and about the concrete methods applied by fakers in the past.

Renewal for commercial purposes as well as falsifying of artefacts has secularly history.[38] In the last decades, several cases have been unmasked in W Europe with the help of non contact analytical and technical methods. One of the most important was the project of the Rijksmuseum dedicated to Rembrands' works, whose purpose was properly to distinguish between originals, copies, replica, fakes. Crackle typology, status of conservation, presence of non original interventions, art-technical and arttechnological characteristics of icons (on wood, on canvas and on wood covered with canvas) have been object of decennial studies by Olga Lelekova by UV-VIS luminescence, high resolution microscope, raking light, professional photography; X-ray imaging. It has been used for authenticity certification, non destructive diagnostic of the conservation status, elaboration of archaeometric references and deterrents against fakes [37].

With general, complex art -technical and technological investigation of easel painting (on canvas and on wood, on wood covered with canvas) deals the recent Technology and ND techniques for the investigation of monumental and easel paintings [21], a kind of best practice for the ND investigation of paintings that is obligatory for all the museum property in Russia, as a part of the complex technical and technological study of the artefacts. The guide updates on the possibilities of the actually used techniques (high resolution microscope, professional photography, monochromatic filtering of Vis light; UV-Vis luminescence, coloured imaging of NUV and LUV; UVR, NIR, database referred monochromatic spectroscopy in IR, SWIR, Mid-IR, LWIR; recognition by electronicoptical transformers (RTI), IRR; TV-IR systems; IRL; Xray, CT) considering the results obtained through assessment of enormous data collected in the multi decennial praxis and informing on the specific instruments and materials of national production [17,18, 19, 20, 23, 26, 27, 29, 31].

Together with these most important sources for the present case study, also several art historic and technical publications in Russian have been considered for to clear single aspects.

Target users:

art collectors, restorers, conservation scientists, art experts, museum curators, art historians, scientist engaged with lab analysis of easel (tempera and oil)paintings. They could require further referential standards, atlases with examples, dedicated publications, best guides or software for fast ND recognition of fakes or of non professional restorations, interactive videos, etc., that benefit new scholarship, research and developments in interpretation.


Russian icon painting; archangels Michael and Gabriel; iconography; attribution of icons; analytical techniques; modern technologies; non-destructive methods; archaeometry; Anobiidae beetles attack; biodeterioration of wooden support.


Scientific Documentation

The experimental part in Belgrade had to examine the wooden support, the preparative plaster, the paint layers, and the varnish and compare all data produced by the typically used for painting non contact techniques: surface analysis under microscope, in incident (VIS)/raking light; in reflected ultraviolet light (UVr) and in ultraviolet luminescence (Uvl); in infrared reflected light (IR) with monochromatic filtering (at 715, 830 and 1000 nm), in plain X-ray with computer tomography (CT), and in energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF).

Having regard of the importance of scientifically reliable, functional, up-dated, standardized and interoperative data bases for CH preservation and restoration, our purpose has been to elaborate a new passport of this artwork, modelled after the actual needs and criteria. This intended the selection of already affirmed models for documentation that, from one side, collect and filter all the necessary technical and historic information and, from the other, enable easy communication with external specialized repertories, its verifying and updating by ND examinations, but also a critical review of older attributions.


The lack of historic sources about this artwork, and the traditionally intense relationships between the South Balkans and Russia by principle required integrated technical analyses for to answer the question if this is an original work or a later copy, to which master or art school production it belongs, and if it has been subject to later interventions.

Particularly challenging for the authenticity certification has been to succeed to establish the velocity with which concrete alterations and damage have occurred, while for the preservation – the tracing and reconstruction of the metamorphosis the entire work has underwent in the course of its historic vicissitudes (here we conventionally call the first 4D imaging and the second – 5D).

Conservation and Restoration

The mapping of the compromised status of conservation, elucidation of the made-up structure and characterization of the applied materials, understanding the origin of the damages, and selecting the most adopted strategy for further preservation (restoration);as well the elaboration of stratigrams, fragmentarization and other technical visualizations were performed to support the routine conservation work and imminent restoration.

Exploring Possibilities and Limits of ND Methods

1.Testing the possibilities for the individualization of: - The chemical composition of the materials on base of their recorded in previous ND experiments IR or X-ray characteristics; - Otherwise “invisible” elements like over paintings in natural dyes or inks of vegetable origin, through monochromatic filtering in VIS and IR at determined wave lengths.

2. Elaboration of detailed references for the interpretation of crackles in the dating / authenticity certification of paintings, using binary segmentation approach to high resolution spectral-radiological records;

3. Increasing the efficiency of basic ND (spectral and radiological) surveys for the attribution of icon painting, benefiting from the most recent research on its technique, technology and regional phenomena, and exploring modalities to extend the application of the results to other sectors (to easel painting in general).

4. Virtual reconstructions and/or elaboration of referential standards for optical recognition useful as archaeometric/authenticity tools.

Interdisciplinary Application

1. Dissemination of practical instructions for authenticity controls of icons and ancient easel painting;

2. Strengthening the scientific-technological profile of publications on historic painting;

3. Improvement of the recognition-interpretation phase in the application of ND techniques on CH in general, by mass storage and assessment of previous research, and by its transformation in interactive informational resources to develop gradually as fast interconnected tools for application in archaeometry.

Excerpt out of 131 pages


An Integrated Technical-Technological Investigation of the Archangel Icon in the National Museum in Belgrade
Cost Action TD1201 Working Group Meetings; 5th international Culture Forum St. Peterburg December 2016
A COST Case Study
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ISBN (Book)
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Russian icon painting, icon, iconography, archangels Michael and Gabriel, archaeometry, anobiidae beetles, biodeterioration of wooden support, non-destructive methods, attribution of icons, National Museum Belgrade, archangel icon
Quote paper
Ph.D. Magdelena Stoyanova (Author)Galina A. Maximova (Author)Anna Ya. Mazina (Author)Ph.D. Irina N. Provorova (Author), 2016, An Integrated Technical-Technological Investigation of the Archangel Icon in the National Museum in Belgrade, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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