JAIC 2005, Volume 44, Number 1, Article 4 (pp. 39 to 50)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2005, Volume 44, Number 1, Article 4 (pp. 39 to 50)

TECHNICAL STUDY OF ETHIOPIAN ICONS, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AFRICAN ART, SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION

Erica E. James


ABSTRACT—This article describes a technical study of six Ethiopian icons at the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, and includes a brief synopsis of the history of Ethiopian painting. The preliminary research involved visual and photographic examination using ultraviolet fluorescence and infrared color photography as well as x-ray radiography. Following this initial examination, dispersed pigment samples and cross sections were analyzed using polarized light microscopy. In addition, the cross sections and loose samples were analyzed using scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy capabilities, x-ray fluorescence, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and x-ray diffraction. The technical study clarified the techniques and materials of Ethiopian icons. The paint layers contained the following pigments: cinnabar, orpiment, indigo, smalt, Prussian blue, terre verte, gypsum, charcoal black, and earth brown. In addition, gypsum was identified as the main component in the ground layer. The binding medium in the pigment and ground was characterized as proteinaceous. This technical study provides insight into icon production in Ethiopia from the 17th to 19th centuries.
[Spanish Abstract] [French Abstract]

Article Sections:

1. INTRODUCTION
2. CONSTRUCTION OF ETHIOPIAN ICONS
3. TECHNICAL STUDY: VISUAL EXAMINATION
4. TECHNICAL STUDY: EXAMINATION OF PIGMENTS
5. TECHNICAL STUDY: BINDER CHARACTERIZATION
6. CONCLUSIONS
a: Notes , Materials , References , Author Information
Entire Article

Copyright 2005 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works