Microscopic, mass spectrometric and spectroscopic characterisation of the mordants used for gilding on wall paintings from three post-Byzantine monasteries in Thessalia, Greece

Olga Katsibiri, Russell Francis Howe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


The main churches of three monasteries in Thessalia, Central Greece are decorated with wall paintings from the post-Byzantine period. The main goal of the present study is to offer insights into the decorative technique of mordant gilding, especially the chemical composition of the mordants and the effects on them of ageing. Light microscopic (LM) examination was carried out on samples taken from the gilded areas of the paintings to view their layer build-up. Direct temperature resolved mass spectrometry (DTMS) under electron ionisation (EI) and chemical ionisation (CI) conditions led to the identification mainly of the organic, as well as some inorganic compounds. Scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDX) gave an account of the elemental composition on selected cases. The results from samples taken from different wall paintings were compared with each other to observe their differences and similarities. Furthermore, the three churches in question are believed to have been painted by the same painter, who has only been identified in one of them. Hence, the comparison of the wall paintings as far as the mordant gilding technique is concerned provided additional evidence on the identity of the painter in the other two churches. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-89
Number of pages7
JournalMicrochemical Journal
Issue number1
Early online date15 Sep 2009
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2010


  • Mordant gilding
  • Wall painting
  • Post-Byzantine
  • LM
  • DTMS
  • identification

Cite this