The photo degradation of watercolour drawings prepared with madder lake pigments on gelatine-sized paper was studied by chemiluminometry, viscometry, and colorimetry. A method of recto irradiation and verso measurement was developed to overcome absorption of the emitted photons by the paint layer. A complex relationship between paper substrate, applied chromophores and associated transition metals was observed with strong correlations between the presence of transition metals associated with the madder lakes and the degradation of the paper substrate and the applied paint layer as well as evidence of pro-oxidative activity by the chromophores in the applied paint layers. The pro-oxidant behaviour appears to be dependent on the type of transition metal present. This is the first in-depth research into the photodegradation of madder lake-based watercolours which attempts to understand the chemistry of the processes.
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