Scientists discover bacteria that eats microbes that destroy ancient paintings

Organisms that degrade historic works of art have been identified through detailed analysis of a 400-year-old painting.

The study shows that what can be a feast for the human eye may literally be a feast for microorganisms colonising paintings.

But researchers found that while some microbes destroy such works of art, others might be employed to protect them.

Researchers say the wide variety of organic and inorganic materials that comprise a painting – such as canvas, oil, pigments, and varnish – can provide an ‘ideal environment’ for colonising bacteria and fungi.

This increases the risk of biodegradation.

To find these microorganisms, scientists looked at a piece called ‘Incoronazione della Virgine’ completed by Italian artist Carlo Bononi in 1620.

Dr Elisabetta Caselli and her colleagues from the University of Ferrara removed a 4 mm2 section of the painted surface next to a damaged area.

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