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Study Diagnoses the Polaroid Emulsion Transfer in Gioli's Artworks for the First Time

In an article published in the journal Molecules, researchers studied the Polaroid emulsion transfer in Paolo Gioli's artworks to provide preliminary information about the materials.

Study: Photons for Photography: A First Diagnostic Approach to Polaroid Emulsion Transfer on Paper in Paolo Gioli’s Artworks. Image Credit: Wirestock Creators/

The most recent and constantly evolving materials, media, and ideologies in creating a piece of art make conserving modern artworks a novel and exciting topic that requires ongoing investigation. A restorer must pay particular attention to the composition of a piece of art before choosing the conservation procedures used on it. It is now essential to have an in-depth scientific understanding of the components of the artwork. As a result, conservation science's contributions to the literature via analytical methods are crucial for preserving art.

Paolo Gioli's Artwork

Paolo Gioli was a modern Italian artist born on October 12, 1942, in Sarzano (Rovigo). Gioli utilized the Polaroid because of its fluidity and adaptability as a medium, which amplifies the relevance of the artist's material that was already described. He applied the emulsion to several receptor layers, such as wood, silk, and paper, while denying that he had utilized all of the resources from the Polaroid Corporation, including the cameras. As a result, he produced works of art that were very complicated both aesthetically and chemically.

Analyzing the Polaroid materials moved to a new platform is a significant contribution and, from a scientific standpoint, a discovery of a distinct feature of the photographic materials since information about the chemistry and conservation of Polaroid materials is not sufficiently comprehensive.

Aim of the Study

The objective of this study was to characterize the Polaroid emulsion transfer in Paolo Gioli's artworks while generating preliminary information about the materials of the artworks and suitable techniques that may be used in further research.

A multi-spectral technique was used to research diagnosing Paolo Gioli's Polaroid emulsion transfers.

Equipment Used

A Polaroid transfer mock-up was created using a method similar to Paolo Gioli's to test the diagnostic process.

The equipment consisted of surgical gloves, a timer, scissors, a smooth working surface, a rolling pin, Polaroid E 100 land camera, Fabriano watercolor papers, receptor paper, and Polaroid Polacolor Type 88.

The Paolo Gioli piece that was examined was a part of the "Cameron Obscura" series he produced in 1981.

Techniques Used

Three different spectroscopic techniques were used to analyze the mock-up made by transferring the Polacolor 88 film to paper and the original artwork of Paolo Gioli.

These techniques include Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, Raman spectroscopy, and fiber optics reflectance spectroscopy (FORS). The benefit of using many analytical techniques is that they all complement one another, resulting in similar and more illuminating findings.

The experimental data were compared with the literature's descriptions of the characteristic absorption ranges and maxima for a number of the dyes used in Polaroid films to identify the dyes (chromium (III) complex of azomethine dye, chromium complex of an azo pyrazolone, blue copper phthalocyanine, magenta, and cyan dye).


The Polaroid 88 film's deterioration presented the researchers with several challenges while creating the mock-up sample.

Alkaline gel was dry because it could not penetrate the film layers to produce a positive picture. It was also challenging to locate the Polacolor films that Gioli used since the Polaroid Corporation stopped producing them.

Significant Findings of the Study

Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy

Since a non-invasive method was essential for executing FTIR, a microscope and FTIR in reflectance mode were utilized in conjunction.

The observed FTIR spectra provided important information on the cellulose present in the paper, and the presence of Arabic gum as the paper's binder was discovered.

The gel in the sac was thickened by hydroxyethyl cellulose, which was detected by FTIR and distinguished from the fingerprint area, which simply contained the paper itself.

Although the findings of the FTIR spectra obtained from Paolo Gioli's original artwork were highly comparable to those of the mock-up sample, the existence of pyrazolone dyes could be verified from the spectra of the sites examined.

Fiber optics reflectance spectroscopy (FORS)

The most diagnostic findings were acquired from FORS about the identification of the dye developers contained in both the mock-up sample made from Polacolor 88 and Paolo Gioli's original artwork made from Polacolor type 89.

The primary dyes employed in Polacolor Types 88 and 89 were identified from the apparent absorbance maxima with reference to the literature, allowing speculation about their structures and molecular substituents.

Future Prospects

To determine the effectiveness of FTIR for the examination of Paolo Gioli's Polaroid emulsions transferred on paper, further research is required.

In particular, in-depth research should be conducted on the components found in Polacolor film to precisely identify spectral artifacts and determine the contribution of each component to the spectrum.

New avenues for research are now available, and from the standpoint of conservation science, Polaroid film characterization offers a fresh area that needs to be explored. The findings from this effort might be crucial for preserving Paolo Gioli's artwork in the future.


Zeynep Alp, Alessandro Ciccola, Ilaria Serafini, Alessandro Nucara, Paolo Postorino, Alessandra Gentili, Roberta Curini and Gabriele Favero (2022) Photons for Photography: A First Diagnostic Approach to Polaroid Emulsion Transfer on Paper in Paolo Gioli’s Artworks. Molecules.

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Taha Khan

Written by

Taha Khan

Taha graduated from HITEC University Taxila with a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. During his studies, he worked on several research projects related to Mechanics of Materials, Machine Design, Heat and Mass Transfer, and Robotics. After graduating, Taha worked as a Research Executive for 2 years at an IT company (Immentia). He has also worked as a freelance content creator at Lancerhop. In the meantime, Taha did his NEBOSH IGC certification and expanded his career opportunities.  


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