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The goal of the finishes investigation was to utilize the previous paint reports to confirm past findings, to determine the stratigraphic history of the original and subsequent schemes, determine the composition of the original finishes on the Whitney Studio ceiling, to diagnose existing finish failures with respect to materials, techniques, and environment, and to present a recreation of the ceiling’s original decorative scheme.  Since the finishes are a complex combination of metallic foils, glazes and paint that are varied throughout the entire ceiling, a representative portion of the ceiling approximately 4’ x 4’ was selected to initiate the examination.  This investigation utilized instrumental testing, which included optical light microscopy, which includes imaging with reflected, transmitted, and fluorescence microscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR), Gas Chromatographic Mass Spectrometry (GCMS) and scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive X-Ray fluorescence spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) on thick cross sections and thin sections.
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As determined through stratigraphic analysis and bulk sample exposures, the ceiling was painted and repainted at least five times: the original scheme followed by four re-paintings. The first scheme was polychromatic; all other schemes appear to have been monochromatic. Before the design layer was applied, the decorative plaster substrate was primed with an oil-based layer. The entire ceiling was originally painted with a base coat of lead white in a linseed oil medium. This served to give a uniform appearance to the various modeled and applied plaster elements of the ornamental ceiling. Figural relief components were then highlighted with undercolors, metallics, glazes, and possibly scumbles.

* Reference spectra for infrared analysis courtesy of IRUG (Infrared and Raman Users Group) database.