Identification and differentiation of dragon's blood in works of art using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry

Baumer, Ursula; Dietemann, Patrick
June 2010
Analytical & Bioanalytical Chemistry;Jun2010, Vol. 397 Issue 3, p1363
Academic Journal
Dragon's blood is a common but non-specific name for red-coloured resins that are produced by various plants, particularly exudations from plant species belonging to the genera Dracaena and Daemonorops. Although dragon's blood is mentioned in historic sources as a colourant, it has hardly ever been identified in real artworks. This paper reports the identification and discrimination of dragon's blood produced by Dracaena cinnabari, Dracaena draco as well as Daemonorops draco and Daemonorops micracantha by means of gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) within the context of a routine analysis of binding media used in works of art. The detection of specific flavonoid marker compounds in both underivatised and methylated methanol extracts provided the first evidence for the use of dragon's blood from all four species in various works of art from the fifteenth to nineteenth centuries. Dragon's blood was mainly used as a red colourant in gold lacquers as well as translucent glazes and paints, e.g. in reverse-glass paintings ( Hinterglasmalerei). [Figure not available: see fulltext.]


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