Direct Identification Of Early Synthetic Dyes: Ft-raman Study Of The Illustrated Broadside Prints Of Jos, Gaudalupe Posada (1852-1913)

F. Casadio
K. Mauck
M. Chefitz
R. Freeman


Fourier Transform (FT)-Raman spectroscopy was used for the non-invasive, direct identification of colorants used to dye historical printed papers, overcoming obstacles such as low concentration of the dye, faded colors and fluorescence interference of the aged paper substrate. Based on a newly created FT-Raman reference database of 20 widely used dyes in the 19th century paper industry, the detectability of these dyes on aged biomaterials was determined by studying dyed paper samples from contemporary dye manuals, and identifying diagnostic peaks detectable on those substrates. Lastly, the method was applied to analyze the colorants used to dye the papers of a group of prints illustrated by the influential Mexico City artist Jos, Guadalupe Posada, active 1876-1913. Unambiguous identification of the synthetic organic colorants Malachite Green (a triarylmethane dye), Orange II and Metanil Yellow (two acid monoazo dyes), Cotton Scarlet (an acid diazo dye), Phloxine (a xanthene dye) and Victoria Blue (a triarylmethane dye) in several of Posada's prints challenged previous art-historical assumptions that these artworks were colored with natural dyes. The acquired knowledge has important conservation implications given that aniline dyes are sensitive to light and to aqueous treatments otherwise commonly carried out on works of art on paper.