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Can Raman spectroscopy provide insight into the cultural meanings of color in the transformative era experienced by Japan between the end of the Edo and the beginning of the Meiji periods? In recent years, Raman and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopies have demonstrated their wide potential for the detection and identification of pigments and dyes in objects of archaeological, historical, and artistic significance. In this chapter, the use of routine analytical methodologies has been complemented with the development of novel sample treatment protocols tailored to the characterization of the coloring materials and corresponding degradation products in woodblock multi-colored nishiki-e printed in Japan between 1859 and 1894. Prints dated to this time period contain a variety of bright red, pink, and purple tints. Raman spectroscopy has proven particularly valuable in the investigation of a series of acid red dyes, which have been incorporated in a spectral database to be used in identification studies. On the other hand, surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy was found to be more suitable for the characterization of red and pink natural and synthetic colorants, such as safflower red, carmine, eosin Y, as well as mixtures of the last two. Additional materials studied include magenta and purple aniline dyes and their degradation products. The results obtained from this scientific study further expand the range of applications of Raman spectroscopic techniques for the study of artists' materials.

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