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Colours and pigments in late ukiyo-e art works: A preliminary non-invasive study of Japanese woodblock prints to interpret hyperspectral images using in-situ point-by-point diffuse reflectance spectroscopy

Publication date:

June 2018

Source:Microchemical Journal, Volume 139

Author(s): Josefina Pérez-Arantegui, David Rupérez, David Almazán, Nerea Díez-de-Pinos

Dyes and pigments have been used in traditional Japanese woodblock printings in the ukiyo-e style for several centuries. However, the possible introduction of new European pigments and the extraordinary quality of the works of the later period led to take a keen interest in the analytical study of these ukiyo-e prints manufactured at the end of the 19th century. The present research discusses the analytical results of the series Bijin jūni kagetsu (“Beauties in the Twelve Months”) by Shuntei, dated in 1898–1899. Due to the characteristics of this type of artworks, diffuse reflectance spectroscopy (DRS) has been chosen as a portable, non-invasive analytical technique to identify pigments and colorants used in the woodblock prints. The analytical possibilities offered by the in-situ point-by-point DRS as a preliminary tool to better interpret hyperspectral imaging (HSI) data were highlighted. Reflectance spectra of more than 190 points sampled throughout the artwork were recorded between 360 and 740nm, and characterised. Throughout an statistical classification of the spectral data using unsupervised pattern recognition methods, twenty-two different colour composition was confirmed. These groups of reflectance spectra were then identified according the presence of characteristic maxima, minima and inflection points in every spectrum. Some micro-samples extracted from the pigments still remained in a woodblock (used for a 20th century print) were analysed by FESEM-EDS to better interpret some reflectance spectra. Traditional Japanese pigments (like vermilion, red lead, and indigo) and synthetic materials introduced in the 18th and 19th centuries (Prussian blue, synthetic arsenic sulphides, eosin, and methyl violet or crystal violet) were identified in the Shuntei's series colours, together with some mixtures of pigments to prepare blue, green, orange and purple. Based on these twenty-two reflectance patterns, the point-by-point spectra make easier the task of interpreting the very complex HSI data, and reduce the time of treatment and interpretation required by HSI.

Authors:   Author(s): Josefina Pérez-Arantegui, David Rupérez, David Almazán, Nerea Díez-de-Pinos
Journal:   Microchemical Journal
Volume:   139
Year:   2018
Pages:   94
DOI:   10.1016/j.microc.2018.02.015
Publication date:   06-May-2018
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