XRF – X-RAY FLUORESCENT SPECTROSCOPY

INNOV-X Alpha 4000 manual XRF

One of the most important instruments in painting examination is the non-destructive material testing tool, which enables rapid elemental analysis of artifacts, allowing the different types of pigments to be used to estimate the types of paints and thus their age. The paint components which are identifiable based on XRF analysis can be linked to certain years, so the age of the paint can be determined from the composition of the paints. On-site composition analysis can be performed with portable XRF instruments. The essence of the XRF method is to emit X-rays into the examined area, – i.e. to excite the electrons on the electron shell, – which thus emits the characteristic X-rays of the material. By evaluating this, we can determine the elements that make up the substance based on the periodic table. Handheld XRF equipment is used to detect atoms above element number 14. The device determines the paint composition of a given 1 cm2 surface non-destructively, based on the examination of the material composition of the given pigment. The age of paintings which were made between 1850 and 1950 can be determined with an accuracy of about 10 years, but also paintings from after World War II can be well identified. When examining artifacts made before the 19th century, we recommend combining XRF measurement with pigment sampling to determine the age of the artifact even more accurately.

XRF instrument at work

Photo: Gyula Czimbal (MTI)

XRF measurement on the orange surface

Photo: Gyula Czimbal (MTI)

The measured data, displayed on the machine

Photo: Gyula Czimbal (MTI)

Elmyr de Hory’s (Elemér Hoffmann; 1906 Budapest – 1976 Ibiza) Modigliani forgery and the result of non-destructive material testing of the artwork. The painting was made with materials from the 1960s.