Analytical and bioanalytical chemistry

The Indian drawings of the poet Cesare Pascarella: non-destructive analyses and conservation treatments.

PMID 21750878


The Italian dialect poet Cesare Pascarella travelled all around the world, noting down in notebooks his keen and caustic observations, and drawing sketches that are a visual reportage of his journeys. The sketches were mounted as a random collage over acidic cardboards that were exposed to direct sunlight in his studio. Their poor state of conservation is related to the use of modern paper: chemical instability of raw materials caused acidification and strong oxidation of the support, with intense yellowing of the surfaces and brittleness of the paper. To ensure future preservation of the drawings, chemical stabilisation with simultaneous alcoholic treatment by deacidification (calcium propionate) and reduction (borane tert-butylamine complex) appeared necessary. To verify its applicability, it was indispensible to characterise the support and identify the nature of all the graphic media. The use of Raman, Infrared, X-ray fluorescence spectroscopies and scanning electron microscopy coupled with X-ray microanalysis allowed us to clear the problems related to the different penetration depth of each analytical technique and the different responses of pigments/dyes to each spectroscopy. The palette, how it varied along the journeys, the different supports used and preparations were completely identified showing a choice of colours compatible with the reduction treatment.

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