Nondestructive characterization and enzyme cleaning of painted surfaces: Assessment from the Macro to Nano level

Catarina Pereira, Tito Busani, Luis C. Branco, Ineke Joosten, Irina Crina Anca Sandu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Citations (Scopus)


This work establishes a multiscale and multitechnique nondestructive approach as valid methodology for monitoring surface properties and evaluating the effectiveness of enzymatic removal of varnishes from paintings/polychrome artefacts. Mock-up samples (documented reconstructions of oil, tempera, and gilded layers on canvas and wooden supports) were covered with different proteinaceous varnishes (egg white, animal and fish glue, casein) and then characterized before and after the removal of these coatings with enzyme-based solutions. The varnish was cleaned in several steps (two dry swabs and two wet swabs) with a clearance step for removing the residues from proteinaceous varnish or from enzyme solution. Microscopy [stereomicroscopy (SM), optical microscopy (OM), atomic force microscopy (AFM), and scanning electron microscopy (SEM)] and colorimetric (CIE L*a*b* system) techniques were used for characterization of the reconstruction surfaces at different scales (macro-scale by SM and OM; micro-scale by SEM and nano-scale by AFM). These techniques were also used to monitor the cleaning treatment. Although results presented in this work were obtained for the specific treatment of enzyme removal, the methodology could be extended to other types of materials and cleaning. Further experiments on real works of art are needed for a complete validation of the methodology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1632-1644
Number of pages13
JournalMicroscopy and Microanalysis
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • AFM
  • cleaning effectiveness
  • multiscale
  • nondestructive methodology
  • paint surface
  • proteinaceous varnish


Dive into the research topics of 'Nondestructive characterization and enzyme cleaning of painted surfaces: Assessment from the Macro to Nano level'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this