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Visual degradation in Leonardo da Vinci's iconic self-portrait: A nanoscale study
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The discoloration of ancient paper, due to the development of oxidized groups acting as chromophores in its chief component, cellulose, is responsible for severe visual degradation in ancient artifacts. By adopting a non-destructive approach based on the combination of optical reflectance measurements and time-dependent density functional theory ab-initio calculations, we describe and quantify the chromophores affecting Leonardo da Vinci's iconic self-portrait. Their relative concentrations are very similar to those measured in modern and ancient samples aged in humid environments. This analysis quantifies the present level of optical degradation of the Leonardo da Vinci's self-portrait which, compared with future measurements, will assess its degradation rate. This is a fundamental information in order to plan appropriate conservation strategies.
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