SR-FTIR imaging has been used to map the mid-IR active photo-degradation phases in two thin sections of cadmium yellow paint removed from Henri Matisse's Le Bonheur de vivre (1905–1906, The Barnes Foundation). These samples represent both the darkened cadmium yellow foliage in the upper left of the work and the lightened cadmium yellow field beneath the central reclining figures. The altered cadmium yellow paints from both regions were found to contain cadmium carbonate (CdCO3), cadmium sulphate (CdSO4), and cadmium oxalate (CdC2O4). Each of these phases was imaged to determine their positions as a function of depth, with the aim of better understanding the role of each phase in the degradation mechanism. This speciation mapping is critical because cadmium oxalate was used in this period as an additive in cadmium yellow light. In addition, cadmium carbonate and cadmium sulphate were synthesis starting materials for cadmium yellow, and so their distribution throughout the paint layer can provide an indication of their roles. It was established that cadmium oxalate is localized at the surface of the paint layer, cadmium carbonate is found deeper in the layer but still enriched at the surface, and cadmium sulphate is distributed throughout the layer. This distribution, along with the chloride content of the paint suggesting a cadmium chloride starting material, is consistent with an alteration mechanism in which the cadmium sulphide is oxidized to sulphate and this is then converted to carbonate and oxalate. The relative solubilities of the three photo-degradation products are also relevant to their locations in the paint film.
This article is Open Access
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