Project Grant Report

An innovative noninvasive and nondestructive multidisciplinary approach for the technical study of the Byzantine wall paintings in the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos in Paphos, Cyprus


To date, only a small number of noninvasiveThe term noninvasive refers to techniques that do not require any interaction with the material. techniques and very few entirely portable instruments are available for in situ applications in cultural heritage. Among these are the recently developed field ultraviolet/visible/near infrared (UV/Vis/NIR) spectrometers that provide in situ chemical and mineralogical characterization of materials based on chemical fingerprinting (Wisseman et al. 2002.); and the hand-held X-ray fluorescence (XRF) spectrometers that offer information at the atomic level (elemental composition) (Aloupi et al. 2000). Combined with broad band imaging using digital cameras and optical filters or with the novel miniaturizedMultispectral and hyperspectral systems were initially developed for satellite imagery for military purposes. Using similar technology these systems have been miniaturized for terrestrial applications. multispectral imaging spectroscopic systems that operate at different wavelengths within the ultraviolet and the infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum (Fischer and Kakoulli 2006), portable instruments have become indispensable in scientific investigations whether in the field, the museum or in the laboratory.

This research introduces the development and application of an innovative multidisciplinary approach for the technical study of the twelfth century wall paintings in the Enkleistra (the hermitage or the place of reclusion) of St. Neophytos in Paphos, Cyprus (Figure 1), by harnessing the analytical capabilities of a portable UV/Vis/NIR spectrometer combined with those of a portable XRF and digital broad band spectral imaging in a wide spectral range. This research is part of a larger scale project for the study and interpretation of the paintings in the Enkleistra, based on combined noninvasive and nondestructiveThe term non-destructive, refers to the application of techniques that do not consume or alter physically and chemically the sample and, therefore, the sample can be re-used for more analyses. scientific methods of investigation in the interface of materials science and art from the macroscopic to the nano length scale.

The aim is to study the technique and materials of the different painting schemes and other painterly interventions in the Enkleistra and to assist in the classification and attribution of the ambiguously dated paintings (Mango and Hawkins 1966; Nicolaides 1996; Winfield 1971) and to foster cutting-edge interdisciplinary research and to evaluate the potential of combined field imaging and spectroscopic techniques for the study of in situ wall paintings. The broader aim is to put forward hypotheses about the significance of technical findings in understanding the relationship between stylistic patterning and technological production in the context of the religious and social structure and organization of monastic communities in the twelfth century in Cyprus immediately prior to the Latin occupation and during the transitional period after the connection with the Empire had been severed; to make a technical stylistic analysis of the paintings of the Enkleistra in relation to other twelfth century paintings in Cyprus;Paintings of the twelfth century in Cyprus are found in the painted churches of Asinou (1105/6), St. Chrysostomos (ca.1115 or slightly earlier); Lagoudera (1192) and Perachorio (ca.1160–1180). Closer stylistic comparisons to the St. Neophytos paintings in the Enkleistra are those at Lagoudera (Mango and Hawkins 1966). to re-examine the maniera greca and to re-evaluate its role and influence on western art (Panofsky 1960; Kitzinger 1966); to identify cross-regional patterns of trade, and intercultural exchanges with the capital and other parts of the Byzantine empire.

Based on two campaigns for the in situ scientific investigation of the paintings, the first in September 2008 and the second in May/June 2009, in this report we will not attempt to support, or contradict previous art historical studies on the attribution and chronology of the paintings; instead the results presented here will discuss in general terms the techniques and materials of the paintings in the Enkleistra without going into details about the individual schemes of painting and attributions (that require further processing of the recently acquired data).

Geographical and chronological outline

The geographic location of Cyprus at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa, the meeting point of great civilizations reflects the factors that have influenced the course of the island's history throughout the centuries and its rich cultural heritage.

As early as the first century A.D., the Roman Governor Sergius Paulus converted to Christianity and Cyprus became the first country in the ancient world governed by a Christian ruler. The spread of Christian faith has slowly created a different attitude towards life and it was not long before the pagan adoration of Aphrodite and Apollo has become the adoration of the Virgin and Child. Following the division of the Roman Empire, Cyprus became part of Byzantium with Constantinople as its capital. The political history of the island was tranquil until the repeated Arab invasions in the seventh century. The most dramatic period of the Cypriot history, however, was the second half of the twelfth century, marked by the devastation of the island by Renaud de Châtillon in 1155/6 and by the cruel and scandalous administration of Isaac Comnenus (1185–1191). In 1191 Cyprus was conquered by Richard Lion Heart who then sold the island to the Templars who resell it to Guy de Lusignan. The Lusignan kings ruled Cyprus until 1489 when the control of the island passed to the Venetians. This eventful part of the history of Cyprus prior and after the Latin occupation is clearly reflected in the style and manner of the paintings of the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos.

St. Neophytos: his life and work

St Neophytos Enkleistros (the recluse) was born in 1134 at Lefkara, a small town in Cyprus, near the city of Larnaca. He was the son of Athanasios and Eudoxia, and the brother of seven. At the age of 17 he opted for a monastic life. For five years he remained at the St. Chrysostom monastery near Kyrenia, cultivating the land and teaching himself how to read and write. Two years after the accomplishment of his duties as a disciple, and though he had acquired the position of assistant sacristan, he left for Jerusalem, in search of a solitary life. His search for enlightenment failed and Neophytos returned to Cyprus, having in mind to leave shortly after; this time for Mt. Latmos in Asia Minor. However, his second attempt failed once again, as he was arrested upon embarkation (the sources do not clarify the reasons) and, when he was finally released from prison, he decided to become an ascetic at the hilly area above Paphos. He departed for his place of reclusion on the 24th of June 1159 and set immediately to build his cell, by enlarging and modifying an already existing cell. He gradually dug his abode into a complex comprising mainly of three caves (what is today the Cell, the Bema and the Naos)The complex also includes the Narthex and the Refectory found adjacent to the principal caves as well as the Skevophylakion, the Ayiastyrion (which is the the room for St. Neophytos sanctification and holy attendance) and the New Zion located above the Narthex and the Naos. which he dedicated to the Holy Cross (Figure 2). Based on his statement that he set up an altar for divine service so as not be sundered from the holy communion of the body and blood of ChristTypikon, chap. 5, p. 8; Mango and Hawkins 1966, 133. the cell and what is today the Bema (with an altar) were the first caves to be excavated between September 1159 and September 1160.

Plan of the Enkleistra complex of St. Neophytos. [From Mango and Hawkins 1966]Figure 2: Plan of the Enkleistra complex of St. Neophytos showing the different caves: the Cell (with the tomb of the saint), the Bema, the Naos, the Narthex and the Refectory. [From Mango and Hawkins 1966]

His fame soon spread and in 1170 he was forced by the bishop of Paphos to accept a disciple. He thus started a monastery and composed the rules which he called "Typike Diatheke". It was the same year that "the structures of the Enkleistra began to be extended and adorned and the whole length of the cliff was excavated for the erection of cells".Typikon, chap. 5, p. 9; Mango and Hawkins 1966, 133. This extension phase seems to have included the Refectory which is at the same level of the Enkleistra, also adorned with paintings (Mango and Hawkins 1966, 133–134). It was not until 1183, however, that the Naos was excavated.Testimony of the saint himself (Mango and Hawkins 1966, 194).

Neophytos proved himself to be a talented writer, as he composed not only his biography and the rules of the monastic community he founded, but also an account of the conquest of Cyprus by Richard the Lionhearted in 1191 and several theological treatises.His works included: Praise to John Chrysostome, and account of miracles, a commentary on the Hexaemeron, praises to several religious occasions, and the chronicle of the conquest of Cyprus by Richard the Lionhearted. However, the increasing amounts of pilgrims made him dig another cave, above the first one (the New Zion), in seek of solitude and inner peace. This latter cave was completed by the end of 1197 that marked also the year when the interior paintings of the Naos were created. According to written testimonies, the Enkleistra was painted in 1183 by Theodore ApseudesThe paintings were dated to 1183 by inscription in the Cell and by reference in the Typikon. According to Mango and Hawkins (1966) the fact that Apseudes was familiar with the newest Byzantine style of painting and that he signed his work suggests that he was not local but a metropolitan painter who was working in Cyprus at that time. while, the final phase of the paintings (mainly in the Naos) was attributed to a different phase after 1197. Between the earlier and the later wall painting scheme of the twelfth century, there are important stylistic differences: whereas the earlier style is characterized by the rococo manner of painting (Figure 3) Comnenian provincial and linear style the later style is more austere and could be characterized as monastic or Comnenian provincial and linear style (Figure 4) (Mango and Hawkins 1966). The paintings of the Enkleistra were restored in 1503 through the commission of another monk Neophytos (Mango and Hawkins 1966).

Detail of the paintings in the Bema dated to the 1183 painting phase.Figure 3: Detail of the paintings in the Bema dated to the 1183 painting phase and characterized by the 'rococo' style developed in Constantinople.

The Enkleistra and its wall paintings

The wall paintings in the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos are among the most important and celebrated twelfth century Byzantine paintings in Cyprus (Stylianou and Stylianou 1985; Mango and Hawkins 1966). The unusual rock-cut structure of the Enkleistra and the unique surviving painting of high artistic quality impress visitors, pilgrims and scholars. The scenes depicted include the crucifixion (painted multiple times in different areas of the Enkleistra), the scene of Deesis, the Annunciation, and scenes from the Passion of Christ. One of the most unusual and spectacular scenes, however, is depicted on the west face of the east bay where there is an impressive painting of the aspirations of the monk: St. Neophytos is depicted among the archangels Michael and Gabriel who hold him by the shoulders. An inscription explains the picture: I fervently pray that I may indeed be enrolled among the angels by virtue of my habit (Figure 5).For a detailed description of the iconography of the paintings in the Enkleistra see: Mango and Hawkins 1966 and Stylianou and Stylianou 1985.

Chronology of the paintings

Based on the extensive description and attributions of the paintings in the Enkleistra by Mango and Hawkins (1966, 193) that comprise one of the most complete and thorough analyses of the paintings, they can be grouped as follows:

  • The paintings in the Cell and Bema;
  • The paintings in the Naos;
  • The paintings in the Refectory (first layer);
  • The paintings in the Narthex, the second layer in the Refectory and the repairs of 1503.

The dates for the paintings in the Cell are established by St. Neophytos himself that said "in the twenty-fourth year of my confinement the Enkleistra was painted throughout" and by the inscription of the painter himself (Theodore Apseudes) giving the date 1182/83. Based on the stylistic similarities with the less complex paintings in the Bema (mainly those of the east bay)In their interpretation, Mango and Hawkins (1966) did not account an existing earlier scheme in the Bema. , according to Mango and Hawkins (1966, 194), these dates refer to the extended painting phase visible on most of the walls in the cell.

For the paintings in the Naos (first scheme), the terminus post quem was established as the year 1197 when St. Neophytos moved to the New Zion. Mango and Hawkins (1966, 201) date these paintings soon after the construction of the Naos in 1197, around 1200 rather than later as suggested by other scholars. The paintings of the Refectory (first scheme) are believed to be contemporary to those of the Naos although attributable to a different painter/workshop (Mango and Hawkins 1966, 202).

The only established date for the post Byzantine paintings in the Enkleistra is the inscription in the Naos with the date 1503. Mango and Hawkins (1966, 202–203) have attributed the Pantocrator depicted on the ceiling of the western bay in the Bema to the same painting phase based on stylistic grounds. The paintings in the Narthex on the other hand, were compared with those in the katholikon and attributed to a date not far removed from 1500. Similarly, the second phase paintings in the Refectory (also post Byzantine) were also considered contemporary and dated close to 1500 (Mango and Hawkins 1966, 203).

Methodology, principles of methods and experimental set-up

Having completed a thorough visual inspection of the paintings (paint layers and plasters), the paintings were documented for archival and diagnostic purposes using digital broad band photography using a broad spectral range from the ultraviolet (UV) to the near infrared (NIR) region. Visible, UV-induced and NIR reflectance and luminescence images were captured. Subsequent to the diagnostic imaging, the paintings were further analyzed with the pUV/Vis/NIR reflectance spectrometer for molecular and mineralogical characterization and with the pXRF spectrometer for elemental identification of the inorganic components. The paintings were systematically documented and analyzed; measurements were taken from all painting phases visible in the Cell, Bema, Naos and Narthex paying attention to analyze methodically areas of the paintings with similar hues for comparanda. The blue and green backgrounds, the flesh tones, the white/grey and red-brown colors of the garments and the red borders framing each scene were consistently analyzed.

pUV/Vis/NIR Reflectance Spectroscopy

The primary tool selected for this investigation is a pUV/Vis/NIR spectrometer that provides inexpensive and quick mineralogical characterization and organic molecular identification of the constituent materials in the paint layers and on the surface without having to take a sample. This study used the newly developed FieldSpec® 3 by Analytical Spectral Devices Inc (ASD). FieldSpec® 3 with high spectral resolution (3 nm @ 700 nm and 10 nm @ 1400/2100 nm) and wide spectral range between 350–2500 nm. These features allow the collection of both reflectance and visible fluorescent measurements from the surface of the ceramics or from micro-cross sections. FieldSpec® 3 is highly portable, user friendly and allows a faster, inexpensive and more flexible method for spatially resolved analysis of the paintings. It can acquire ten spectra per second for the entire 350–2500 nm range. The flexible spot size analyzer for contact analysis facilitated the systematic study of specific areas.

pXRF Spectroscopy

X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy is a noninvasive technique widely used for the elemental characterization of materials and has found extensive application for the study of paintings. The versatile capabilities of the pXRF have extended its use to in situ applications for the preliminary characterization, classification and sorting of a variety of objects in museum collections, as well as, for the analysis and sourcing of pigments in wall paintings (Philips and Speakman 2009; Papageorgiou and Liritzis 2007; Craig et al. 2007; Willliams-Thorpe et al. 1999; Morgenstein and Redmount 2005).

The Tracer Ⅲ–Ⅴ, a portable XRF spectrometer from Bruker was used for the analysis of the paintings at the Ekleistra of St. Neophytos. The pXRF was operated at 40Kev and 1.35 mA. The acquisition time was set to 60s.

Broad Band Digital Imaging

Broad band digital diagnostic imaging employing primarily visible (diffuse and raking light), UV-induced visible fluorescence and UV and NIR reflectance and luminescence photography, as well as, reconstructed false-color tri-chromatic composite spectral images (through post capturing processing) provided complementary and important information on surface characteristics and enhanced compositional heterogeneities. The Fujifilm IS-1, a 9.0 megapixels digital camera was used, whose CCD sensor can capture adequately between 400 and 900 nm. Two different types of illumination were tested for digital photography in the field. For visible and near infrared reflectance photography two General Electric Halogen lights (150 watt each) were used with a broad emission from the ultraviolet to the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. For ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence photography, three Arachnid 5mm UV LED handheld blacklight flashlights were employed that emit in the long wave ultraviolet region (365nm-390nm). Aperture Priority mode has been the preferred setting for NIR documentation, while focusing was done manually to prevent the lens' focus from shifting.

For visible light photography, different filters were tested. The best results were obtained using the X-NiteCC1 without additional filtering. For NIR reflectance photography the paintings were illuminated with the two halogen lights at 45 degrees angle from the paintings, while, three Maxmax long pass filters (715nm, 780nm and 830nm) were used to capture the images. Complementary information was obtained with the use of these different filters based on the spectral reflectance of the area photographed. Ultraviolet reflectance photography involved the use of ultraviolet illumination (using the Arachnid 5mm UV LEDs) combined with specific filters that transmit in the ultraviolet region of interest (similar to the emission wavelength). Although the sensitivity of the camera's sensor is in the range of 400 to 900nm, as the excitation source used had its highest emission peak in 390nm, the images captured through this technique correspond primarily to the reflectance in the blue end of the visible spectrum. For UV-induced visible fluorescence, the paintings were illuminated again with the Arachnid 5mm UV LEDs, while the camera sensor was filtered with the X-NiteCC1. For luminescence photography in the NIR, the long pass 715nm NIR filter was used instead.

Composite images were reconstructed by recombining three monochromatic pictures taken at specific wavelengths. For false-color infrared, a picture captured in the infrared was combined with the red and green of the visible, whereas for false-color ultraviolet, a UV reflectance image was combined with the blue and green.

Results and Discussion

Preliminary results from the combined noninvasive investigations integrating imaging and in situ spectroscopic analyses suggested that the paintings in the Enkleistra belong to various painting phases between 1160 (soon after the completion of the excavation of the Cell) and the middle of the eighteenth century (contemporary to the opening of the door in the east wall of the Cell). Within this time frame, there are several other painting phases; the most distinctive ones being the painting scheme by Theodore Apseudes of 1183 concentrated mainly in the Cell and the Bema, the post 1197 painting phase found mainly in the Naos, the later remodeling/redecoration of the Enkleistra by the monk Neophytos in 1503 that occurs principally in the Nave and the Bema, and the paintings in the Narthex displaying two painting schemes, the earlier visible only on the west wall (above the entrance door to the Naos close to the vault). In the cell alone, there are at least five individual painting phases that can be discerned, two of which (seen on the east and south wall of the Cell) clearly predate the 1183 painting scheme (Mango and Hawkins 1966; Wharton Epstein 1981), while, two others, the painting of St. Andrew Salos on the south wall and another later phase on the east wall that could be contemporary to the opening of the door post date the paintings by Apseudes.Further investigation is required to establish if the panel with St. Andrew Salos was painted before or after the 1183 phase. In the Bema, there is also evidence of a pre-1183 painting phase (most likely part of an original incomplete decoration of the Bema) visible on the east and south walls.There is clearly at least one other painting phase (maybe more) in the Bema that has not been mentioned by Mango and Hawkins (1966).

Technique and materials of the paintings in the Enkleistra

Based on visual observation and scientific data, two different techniques were used for the execution of the paintings in the Enkleistra; the fresco and the secco techniques. Fresco technique refers to any painting executed on moist lime-rich (calcium hydroxide) plaster layer. The pigments are commonly applied with water, and are fixed by the formation of a carbonate lattice during a chemical reaction occurring with the setting of the lime.

Ca(OH)2 + CO2 ➞ CaCO3 + H2O↑

Slaked lime     Carbonated lime

Setting of Lime

During this chemical reaction there is a loss of water causing contraction and cracking and therefore when lime is used as a plaster it is always mixed with organic or inorganic aggregates. In a fresco technique, the plaster is generally applied 'patch' by 'patch', each patch the area of painting which could be completed before the plaster dried out. These small sections of plaster are usually called giornata(e) (from the Italian for "day(s)"). In contrast, secco technique (secco means dry in Italian) involves the use of any surface (it does not need to be fresh lime plaster) onto which the pigments are fixed by using an organic binding medium.

In the Enkleistra, the fresco technique can be clearly seen in the execution of the image of St. Andrew Salos painted on the south wall of the Cell. The panel was executed on an individual giornata of plaster with pigments compatible to the fresco technique. Conversely, the scene of the crucifixion painted on the same wall was completed entirely in the secco technique; the painting was executed over a thin whitewash layer applied over a pre-existing painting. The pigments were mixed and applied on the wall using an organic binding medium, most likely a drying oil and/or egg tempera or glue.The analysis and interpretation of results are still in progress.

Various natural mineral pigments (both local and exotic), as well as, artificially produced inorganic pigments were identified in the wall paintings, by means of pXRF and pUV/Vis/NIR spectroscopy. The local mineral varieties included mainly red and yellow ochre (Figure 6) (haematite – iron (III) oxide and goethite – iron (III) oxyhydroxide), umber (iron (III) oxide and manganese oxide), green earth (celadonite, an iron (II)(III) silicate pigment), calcium carbonate white and possibly, white clay. The foreign natural inorganic pigments included lapis lazuli (Figure 6) consisting mainly of lazurite, diopside and pyrite minerals (Plesters 1986; Gaetani et al. 2004), cinnabar (mercuric sulfide) and an arsenic-containing pigment, perhaps orpiment or realgar (arsenic sulfide). The artificially produced inorganic pigments included lead white (basic lead carbonate)Lead white was produced by scraping and pounding of corroded metallic lead (pre-treated with vinegar in the presence of moisture and carbon dioxide). and minium or red lead (lead tetroxide).Lead tetroxide was most commonly prepared by calcination of litharge, lead (Ⅱ) oxide in air around 450 degrees Celsius. The pigments seem to have been used pure or in mixtures and were applied in a single or multiple layers. Diagnostic for the differentiation of the different painting phases were proved to be the green and the flesh paints, while, the analysis of the blue paint pointed out to the consistent use of lapis lazuli (in all painting phases excluding the post Byzantine phases), whereas, the bright red paints varied from pure cinnabar to mixtures or superimpositions with red lead (Figure 7). The yellow paints consisted mainly of yellow ochre, while, the brown-reds consisted of different hues of red ochre, yellow ochre and umbers applied pure or in combination with each other.

Thin metal foils of alloys (or electrons) were also identified in the paint layers and more particularly in the halos to give a metallic glitter. These showed traces of gold (Au) and silver (Ag). The gold/silver leaf was applied over a layer of yellow ochre presumably using glue or a mordant (further investigation is required).

Paint alterations

During the documentation of the paintings, different paint alterations were observed on both the earlier (twelfth century) and later (post Byzantine) schemes. The most common alteration pattern documented was the darkening of the bright red paint layers. A similar grey discoloration was also observed in some areas of the blue and the green paint layers. These color changes in the paint layers are currently under investigation.

Previous restorations

The paintings show evidence of a number of previous interventions, some of which have been recorded in the literature (Mango and Hawkins 1966). Wax (paraffin) was identified on the surface of the paintings, particularly those in the cell, while an Acryloid (a methyl methacrylate copolymer) possibly Paraloid B72 seems to have been applied over the surface of almost all the paintings. One section of the painting decorating the tomb in the Cell (on the west wall) was completely removed from the rock-cut surface by the conservators of the Department of Antiquities in Cyprus during a conservation intervention as the painting showed severe delamination and disintegration. It was, however, later re-attached in place after it has been first consolidated on an artificial support (pers. comm. Hadjistephanou 2009) In addition, the paintings also show old and new edging repairs, filled injection holes (possibly used to apply a grout), plaster repairs, and extensive retouching.


Reflections on the paintings in the Enkleistra

The painting schemes in the Enkleistra are more complex than originally estimated based primarily on art historical stylistic interpretations (Stylianou and Sylianou 1985; Mango and Hawkins 1966). With the help of special photographic techniques and illumination methods, distinctive features of the painting techniques such as the treatment of the plasters and ground layers, the application of the brush strokes and the execution of the underdrawings, revealed the manner of painting which together with the chemical analysis of the paint layers will contribute to the attribution of the paintings. The presence of certain pigments and organic binding media offer some clues to the technique and previous experience of the painter(s),The extensive use of lead-containing pigments for example suggested that the painter or painters were more familiar with icon painting techniques on wood, rather than wall painting techniques. while, it could also be diagnostic for the dating of the paintings.

Without doubt, the results from the noninvasive analysis conducted in the Enkleistra, although not conclusive, will shed new evidence that will assist to identify the different schemes and to establish the relation with each other. So far, the paintings show some individual characteristics and different techniques for their execution. Both local and foreign natural minerals are present, the sourcing of which will assist further to their attribution. Expensive pigments such as cinnabar and lapis lazuli were extensively used, as well, as gold and silver metal foils. Current investigations to identify fine similarities and dissimilarities in chemical composition of materials and techniques of execution will elucidate our understanding on the paintings decorating the Enkleistra.

Some considerations about the noninvasive in situ analysis of wall paintings

Wall paintings like other types of work of art are often quite complex, consisting of one on more plaster layers, multiple paint layers of pure pigments or mixtures, metal foils and surface varnishes. Being integral part of a building or a monumental structure that is commonly exposed to adverse and uncontrolled environmental conditions, wall paintings often show patterns of paint discoloration and darkening, plaster and paint disintegration, delamination, exfoliation and other structural decays. The use of portable field instruments employed for the characterization of materials that yield results at surface and subsurface level can therefore provide essential and vital information on the chemistry of materials (organic and inorganic) and can reveal and identify patterns of materials alteration, as well as, foreign artifacts. In this study, of significant importance highlighting the contribution of portable instrumentation, was the identification of lapis lazuli, possibly brought to Cyprus from Afghanistan through Constantinople, and the detection of organic materials on the surface of the paintings often difficult to identify even with highly sophisticated laboratory analytical techniques (Chiavari et al. 1999). The organic spectral signatures of wax and Acryloid identified, corresponded probably to surface protective coatings, also seen fluorescing under UV-induced illumination. However, there are still some limitations with the use of portable instruments as in specific cases, important information that can provide clues to answer complex questions on the technology, provenance and dating of a work of art can only be determined with micro-sampling and spatially resolved laboratory analysis of the stratigraphic samples at the molecular and nano length scales.

Major contribution of this project

Whereas previous studies of the techniques of Cypriot wall paintings have concentrated on the relatively late paintings of Askas (fifteenth and sixteenth centuries) and Monagri (eighteenth century) (Frieden 1997; Howard 1992; Kakoulli 1994), with only exception the recent study of the contemporary Byzantine paintings at the church of Virgin Phorviotissa at Asinou (Kakoulli et al. forthcoming), the study of the paintings in the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos focuses on the more important but less well studied period of the twelfth century. This study is therefore pivotal to understand the native artistic traditions that survived by the end of the eleventh century in Cyprus and the direct (with the influx of painters) and indirect (through Palestine and Asia minor) influence from the capital in the twelfth century.

Further research

Further research will involve the thorough and systematic processing of the data collected using the integrated approach of combined techniques during the in situ noninvasive investigation of the paintings in order to identify each phase of painting based on its technical attributes and materials and to map the spatial distribution of each phase in the Enkleistra. The results will be further correlated with Byzantine and Medieval treatises (Hermeneia 1974) on techniques and with other technical studies of contemporary paintings (Nadolny 2001; Plesters 1963; Schwartzbaum 1986; Winfield 1969–70).

Micro-sampling of important key paint layers will also be conducted to provide information for the sourcing of materials, dating and attribution of the paintings. A spectral library of UV/Vis/NIR reflectance and XRF spectra of the original paint layers will also be compiled and will be available on line through a dedicated Web Site.


We are most grateful for the generous support of the Dumbarton Oaks Institute that made this important pilot project possible with the award of a Project Grant in Byzantine Studies during 2008/09 and to the Council of Research at UCLA that granted Prof. Kakoulli a faculty award. We also wish to thank all the monks and staff of St. Neophytos monastery and particularly father Alexios for his hospitality and continuous support during the duration of the in situ investigations and beyond, and the Department of Antiquities of the Republic of Cyprus for the permit to study the paintings in the Enkleistra of St. Neophytos. We also would like to thank Dr. Jenny Hällström, postdoctoral fellow at UCLA for her invaluable assistance with the scientific investigations during the field campaign in May/June 2009.


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