Unraveling the composition of Rembrandt's impasto through the identification of unusual plumbonacrite by multimodal X-ray diffraction analysis

Victor Gonzalez, Marine Cotte, Gilles Wallez, Annelies van Loon, Wout De Nolf, Myriam Eveno, Katrien Keune, Petria Noble, Joris Dik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Rembrandt (1606–1669) is renowned for his impasto technique, involving his use of lead white paint with outstanding rheological properties. This paint was obtained by combining lead white pigment (a mixture of cerussite PbCO 3 and hydrocerussite Pb 3(CO 3) 2(OH) 2) with an organic binding medium, but the exact formulation used by Rembrandt remains a mystery. A powerful combination of high-angle and high-lateral resolution x-ray diffraction was used to investigate several microscopic paint samples from four Rembrandt masterpieces. A rare lead compound, plumbonacrite (Pb 5(CO 3) 3O(OH) 2), was detected in areas of impasto. This can be considered a fingerprint of Rembrandt's recipe and is evidence of the use of an alkaline binding medium, which sheds a new light on Rembrandt's pictorial technique.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5619-5622
JournalAngewandte Chemie (International Edition)
Volume58
Issue number17
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Keywords

  • impasto
  • lead
  • pigments
  • Rembrandt
  • synchrotron x-ray diffraction

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