Rembrandt is one of the most famous artists of all time and scientists have finally discovered the secret ingredient of his iconic technique.
Dutch genius refined his impasto technique, which gave a 3D look to his work, with a mystery recipe for his paint.
Centuries of research found it a combination of materials that are traditionally available in the 17th-century Dutch color market, namely lead white pigment, cerussite and organic media such as linseed oil.
Until now, the exact combination remained a mystery.
Scientists have used advanced imaging techniques to find the missing ingredient called plumbonacrite.
This is now used in the automotive industry as a color preserver for red and orange paints.
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Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669) (photo) was one of the world's greatest painters and an important figure in Dutch history. He refined his impasto technique, which gave a 3D appearance to his work, with a mystery recipe for his paint
Plumbonacrite is extremely rare in historical layers of paint and has only ever been found in some samples of paintings from the 20th century and in an attacked red lead pigment in a 19th century painting by fellow Dutch master Vincent Van Gogh.
Lead author Dr. Victor Gonzalez, of the Rembrandt Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, and Delft University of Technology, stated: & # 39; We did not expect to find this stage because it is so unusual in paintings by the Old Masters.
Moreover, our research shows that the presence is not accidental or is the result of contamination, but is the result of an intended synthesis. & # 39;
Impasto is where thick layers of paint create visible brush or knife strokes in quantities that allow them to be distinguished from the surface.
The word is derived from the Italian verb impastere, & # 39; paste in slices & # 39; and the method increases the perceptibility of the paint by increasing the light-reflecting textural properties.
The study, published in the magazine Angewandte Chemie, used the most modern scanning machines of the European Synchrotron, Grenoble, France (ESRF), to discover how impasto became.
They took small samples of three of Rembrandt's masterpieces – the portrait of Marten Soolmans in the Rijksmuseum, Bathsheba from the Louvre in Paris and Susanna housed in the Mauritshuis in The Hague.
Radiation With X-rays, the Dutch and French team were able to identify the chemicals in the impasto of Rembrandt and in the adjacent layers of paint.
Study of a head of a young man (photo) of just over 25 cm (10 inches) high is expected to reach around £ 6 million ($ 7.8 million) when auctioned in London the following month
Then they modeled the shape and size of the pigments and calculated their distribution on the microscope.
The samples had a size of less than 0.1 mm, so the small and intense light had to produce high-resolution images.
Dr Marine Cotte, an internationally renowned expert in the field of art conservation at the ESRF, said: "In the past we have already successfully used the combination of these two techniques to study lead-white paints.
WHO IS REMBRANDT?
Rembrandt van Rijn (1606 – 1669) was one of the world's greatest painters and an important figure in Dutch history.
Known for his self-portraits and biblical scenes, his early work was small but rich in details; religious and allegorical themes were prominent.
Then he switched to the use of light, exposing large parts of his paintings in the shade.
From 1628 Rembrandt accepted students and it is assumed that it is about 50 years old.
Often feelings of guilt are attributed to Rembrandt's supposed demise to the death of his wife and the alleged rejection of a painting called the Nigth Watch by those who commissioned it.
We knew that the techniques can offer us high quality diffraction patterns and therefore with subtle information about paint composition. & # 39;
The analysis of the data showed that Rembrandt deliberately adjusted his painting materials.
Explained Dr. Cotte: & # 39; The presence of plumbonacrite indicates an alkaline environment.
Based on historical texts, we believe that Rembrandt has added lead oxide or lead gale to the oil in this purpose, which has turned the mixture into a paste-like paint. & # 39;
The breakthrough also opens the door to long-term preservation and preservation of Rembrandt's masterpieces.
But the number of samples tested is not extensive enough to assess whether lead white impastos systematically contain plumbonacrite.
Dr Annelies van Loon, from the Rijksmuseum: "We work with the hypothesis that Rembrandt may have used other recipes, and that is why we will study samples from other paintings by Rembrandt and other 17th Dutch masters, including Vermeer. Hals, and painters who belong to Rembrandt's circle. & # 39;
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn was born in Leiden in 1606 and died in 1669.
In 2009, his portrait of a man, half-length, with his arms crossed … & # 39; at Christie's auction house in London sold for £ 20.2 million, the most ever paid for one of his works.