Iron is a powerful chromophore element whose pigmenting properties were the first to be recognized among transition metals. The interest in blue iron minerals as pigments for painting was enhanced with the use of vivianite"a natural hydrated ferrous phosphate, Fe3(PO4)2.8H2O"which in medieval Europe became an alternative to the expensive lapis lazuli, (Na,"‰Ca)4(AlSiO4)3(SO4,"‰Cl,"‰S), a member of the ultramarines whose appreciated blue tone is due to the presence of sulfur polyanions. Conversely, vivianite coloring is attributed to the intervalence charge transfer (IVCT) Fe2+-Fe3+ that in later decades was studied by optical techniques and Moessbauer spectroscopy. However, the aging of blue vivianite pigments in old paintings has become a serious concern for conservators, but the aging process still awaits a satisfactory explanation. As an input to this problem, an X-ray absorption near-edge structure (XANES) study at the Fe K-edge of vivianite with different colors and origins was undertaken at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility using the instrumental facilities of beamline ID-2The analysis of pre-edge features corroborates previous data on the origin of vivianite color and emphasizes the need for a precautious assessment of iron speciation on the exclusive basis of XANES data. Actual results are discussed and further work is outlined.
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