Lead White to help Date Dutch Paintings?

December 13 2021

Image of Lead White to help Date Dutch Paintings?

Picture: Rijksmuseum

Posted by Adam Busiakiewicz:

For those who love the scientific geekery of art history, then here's another interesting article which has appeared this month. The journal Science Advances have just published an article penned by Paolo D’Imporzano, Katrien Keune,  Janne M. Koornneef, Erma Hermens, Petria Noble, A. L. S. Vandivere and Gareth R. Davies entitled Time-dependent variation of lead isotopes of lead white in 17th century Dutch paintings.

Here's the abstract:

This study investigates how lead isotopes in lead white pigment can be used as an additional diagnostic tool to constrain the production time of 17th century Dutch paintings. Analysis of 77 well-dated paintings from 27 different Dutch artists reveal significant change in the source of lead used in lead white at the start, middle, and end of the 17th century. Isotopic shifts are related to major historical and socioeconomical events such as the English Civil War and Anglo-Dutch-French conflicts. These observations offer the prospect that lead isotope analysis of lead white could aid attribution and authentication of Dutch 17th century paintings and provide insights into artists’ international travels as well as lead production and trading.

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