CERIC-ERIC news: SISSI involved in the Stradivarius study


Three centuries after the passing of Cremonese luthier Antonio Stradivari, we are still searching for the construction secrets that make his instruments so special. It is a mystery that fascinates both admirers and scientists, who are harnessing the latest technology to figure it out. A recent study published in the scientific journal Analytical Chemistry has revealed an important detail about the nature of the coating present beneath the varnish. The first author of the research is Chiaramaria Stani, a scientific collaborator with the European Research Infrastructure Center Consortium (CERIC) in the area of cultural heritage. 

The analyses were carried out on two violins produced by Stradivari, the Toscano (1690), kept at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, and the San Lorenzo (1718), preserved in Tokyo under the care of restorer and estimator Sota Nakazawa.

"For several years, experts in the field have been debating Stradivari's use of a preparatory layer interposed between the varnish and the wood in order to even out the surface of the latter," says Giacomo Fiocco, co-author of the research. Infrared microscopy analyses previously carried out at Elettra synchrotron's SISSI beamline had suggested the presence of organic material applied directly to the wood, below the layers of varnish. It had not been possible to ascertain, however, its exact chemical nature. Instead, in the latest study, a more sophisticated technology, infrared nano-microscopy, was used, which allowed to obtain unprecedented details. "The results obtained in this work showed the unequivocal presence of a protein-based treatment, probably an animal glue based on collagen or casein, applied directly to the wood and partially absorbed by it," says Chiaramaria Stani. Such treatment would be able to affect the sound of the instrument itself, giving it its unmistakable clarity.

The authors also include Lisa Vaccari, head of Elettra's SISSI beamline, who says, "Thanks to the application of the advanced techniques available at our laboratory, it was possible to obtain extraordinary results on extremely complex samples, demonstrating the potential of the applied methodologies and opening up new scenarios for the study of cultural heritage." Access to the scientific instrumentation at Elettra Sincrotrone Trieste, located in AREA Science Park, was made possible thanks to a grant from the European Research Infrastructure Center Consortium (CERIC), of which Elettra is an Italian partner.

"We are still unable to uniquely define the Cremonese master's construction technique, but thanks to this work we have taken a substantial step forward in understanding how Stradivari built his incredible instruments," concludes Marco Malagodi, scientific head of the Arvedi Laboratory of Non-Invasive Diagnostics at the University of Pavia and co-author of the study.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Nanofocused Light on Stradivari Violins: Infrared s-SNOM Reveals New Clues Behind Craftsmanship Mastery. Stani C., Invernizzi C., Birarda G., Davit P., Vaccari L., Malagodi M., Gulmini M., & Fiocco G., Analytical Chemistry, 2022.
Last Updated on Friday, 04 November 2022 16:15