Unusual chemical compound found in Rembrandt painting

(ORDO NEWS) — An international group of scientists studied Rembrandt’s painting “Night Watch” and found in it a lead compound, rare for such canvases. The discovery gives a new insight into the painting technique of the 17th century.

The canvas “Night Watch”, written in 1642 and exhibited in the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, is considered Rembrandt’s most famous work.

Scientists from the State Museum of Amsterdam (Netherlands), the European Synchrotron Center (France), the University of Antwerp (Belgium) and other scientific organizations have studied the “chemistry” of the painting “Night Watch”.

The artist’s work was examined using large-scale imaging techniques and an X-ray scanning device developed at the University of Antwerp. Tiny paint samples were taken from the painting and examined using micro-X-ray probes.

The analysis revealed the presence of an unexpected chemical compound – lead formate (a salt of lead and formic acid), which is a colorless crystal that dissolves in water.

This compound has never been found before in the paintings of distant eras, because it probably quickly disappears from the canvas – it can only be found on modern paintings.

Researchers believe that the discovery of lead formate provides science with new information about Rembrandt’s possible use of lead-based oil paints, as well as the complex chemical composition of historical oil paintings .

Scientists even tried to get the paint used by the “master of the image of the face and hands” in the laboratory.

They suggested that the painter could use heated linseed oil and dissolved lead oxide to obtain it.

However, this is only one of the hypotheses, and the researchers intend to explore other ways to get the paint that Rembrandt used.

It is possible, however, that lead formates appeared in the picture due to later restoration work. All this remains to be seen.

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