Rembrandt ‘mixed flour with paints’ for a thicker painting stroke

Friday, February 4, 2011

WASHINGTON - A new study has found that 17th-century Dutch artist Rembrandt used wheat starch in some of his paint to achieve a thicker stroke.

Experts at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels reveal new insights into the techniques that Rembrandt experimented with as he created his masterpieces.

“The most striking result is undoubtedly the presence of starch, which to our knowledge has not been observed before in Rembrandt’s work,” Discovery News quoted Jana Sanyova, an analytical chemist, as saying.

“He was probably looking for special effects,” she said.

“Rembrandt is known as a very ingenious and inventive artist-experimentalist who exceptionally mastered the use of his materials. The introduction of flour at the height of his career shows once more how he was keen for challenges,” Sanyova said.

Usually, it is difficult to analyze paint layers because they are spread so incredibly thin. The thinnest ones rise just a thousandth of a millimeter above the layer below them.

Sanyova and colleagues used some of the most high-tech equipment around to look at the “Portrait of Nicolaes van Bambeeck,” which Rembrandt van Rijn painted in 1641.

Results revealed that for the second greyish layer of paint on the “Portrait of Nicolaes van Bambeeck,” Rembrandt mixed oil and a small amount of lead with wheat flour.

According to Narayan Khandekar, a conservation scientist at the Harvard Art Museums in Cambridge, Mass, the technique helped the artist make his oily paint thicker and more viscous.

“It’s rediscovering a lost technique. People are curious to know what Rembrandt used to paint with because he’s one of the greatest painters. It’s natural to want to know,” he said.

The find appears in the journal Analytical Chemistry. (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

will not be displayed