This paper reports the results of several scientific analyses carried out on ten mandolins made in the second half of the eighteenth century by the most important Neapolitan mandolin manufacturers such as the Filano, Fabricatore, Gagliano and Vinaccia families. Various elements of decoration were characterized for each mandolin: the resins of the sound hole decorations, the black wood strips of the purflings, the varnishes and the glues. Thanks to microscopy observations SEM-EDX, lFT-IR and lRaman analysis, a multi-technique approach was used in order to fully characterize and compare some of the decoration-making techniques peculiar of each family of makers. Shellac was the main organic material used both in the sound hole decorations and in the varnishes. Inorganic fillers such as aluminosilicates, particles of iron oxides/ hydroxides and microfossils of diatoms were found within the false inlays. Black iron-based dyes were identified as dyes for the black wood strips of the purflings.
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