A recent scientific investigation on Hellenistic and Roman wall paintings of funerary and domestic contexts from Nea (‘New’) Paphos, located in the southwest region of Cyprus, has revealed new information on the paintings’ constituent materials, their production technology and technical style of painting. Nea Paphos, founded in the late 4th century BC, became the capital of the island during the Hellenistic period (294–58 BC) and developed into a thriving economic center that continued through the Roman period (58 BC–330 AD). A systematic, analytical study of ancient Cypriot wall paintings, excavated from the wealthy residences of Nea Paphos and the surrounding necropoleis, combining complementary non-invasive, field-deployable characterization techniques, has expanded the scope of analysis, interpretation and access of these paintings. The results from in situ analyses, combining X-ray fluorescence (XRF) and fiber-optic reflectance spectroscopy (FORS), forensic imaging in reflectance and luminescence, and digital photomicrography, were informative on the raw materials selection, application technique(s) and extent of paintings beyond the visible. Data collected through the integration of these techniques were able to: (1) show an intricate and rich palette of pigments consisting of local and foreign natural minerals and synthetic coloring compounds applied pure or in mixtures, in single or multiple layers; (2) identify and map the spatial distribution of Egyptian blue across the surface of the paintings, revealing the extent of imagery and reconstructing iconography that was no longer visible to the naked eye; and (3) visualize and validate the presence of Egyptian blue to delineate facial contours and flesh tone shading. This innovation and technical characteristic in the manner of painting facial outlines and constructing chiaroscuro
provides a new insight into the artistic practices, inferring artists/or workshops’ organization in Cyprus during the Roman period.
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