All paintings are carefully examined on their arrival to the studio, to ascertain their condition and determine the necessary treatment to be undertaken. This may progress into a more detailed study that involves investigating the structure of the painting, its materials and the techniques of the artist. Conservators at IFACS use the following methods of analysis:
Studio techniques involve the visual observation of pigment dispersions (pigment powder, mounted in a clear-setting resin) with a polarising light microscope, using gemmological and mineralogical optical analytical processes.
Energy Dispersive X-ray analysis, under a scanning electron microscope (EDX – SEM), is a technique that is also used to pin-point the precise elemental composition of paint cross-sections.
Cross-sections can be treated with stains, which indicate the presence of certain materials such as lipids (suggesting an oil-containing medium), or proteins (signifying a gum-, casein- or animal glue-based medium). More conclusive results may be obtained using Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) for oil and protein based media. The results obtained from these techniques can be interpreted to reveal the type of lipid or protein medium used.