An international team of scientists has managed to uncover the secret of the famous pictorial technique of “impasto” used in the Seventeenth century by Rembrandt, revealed this week the european Synchrotron of Grenoble, which has contributed to the research.

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Led by the Rijksmuseum of Amsterdam and the department of materials science from the University of Delft, the netherlands, research has uncovered the key ingredient used by the Dutch painter to apply this technique in order to give relief to certain parts of his paintings.

“scientists have demonstrated that the ingredient mysterious in the effect of impasto was the plumbonacrite. It is extremely rare to find this compound in the paintings of this period”, explains the european Synchrotron of Grenoble, citing Angewandte Chemie , the Dutch magazine in which the study is recently published.

“Synthesis voluntary”

“It has been detected in a few samples of paintings of the Twentieth century and a pigment (…) gradient of a painting of Van Gogh,” says the european centre for scientific research, in a press release. “Our research shows that its presence is not accidental, nor due to contamination, but that it results from a synthesis voluntary,” stresses Victor Gonzalez, author of the study and a researcher at the Rijksmuseum.

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The results have been obtained with the assistance of the Grenoble Synchrotron, which has analyzed several samples of tiny fragments of the Portrait of Marten Soolmans (1634) Bathsheba (1654) and Susanna (1647), three famous paintings of Rembrandt.

The technique of impasto, the so-called “impasto”, allowed the artist to add a third dimension to his works through “the spreading of a layer of thick paint laid on the canvas in quantities large enough to make it out of the area”.

In previous research, scientists had discovered that the Dutch painter had obtained his famous “impasto” by combining the various materials available on the Dutch market of the Seventeenth century”, in which “white lead” and “organic binders”, such as linseed oil.

research is currently ongoing on other masterpieces of the painter, but also paintings by other great Dutch masters such as Vermeer, to try to say that all the “impasti” of the time contain the plumbonacrite, but also to eliminate the assumption that Rembrandt was able to use “other revenues”.

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