Why Did the Outdated Masters Add Egg Yolk to Paint?

Artwork historians have identified for a while that Outdated Masters corresponding to Leonardo da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli combined egg yolks into their oil paints. Now, scientists might have found the rationale why. An article printed final Tuesday within the journal Nature Communications means that these Renaissance painters might have identified about egg yolk’s means to guard their works towards injury.

Scientists included egg yolk into oil paint for his or her experiment utilizing two strategies: first, by instantly mixing yolk and oil paint with a palette knife, making a thick and stiff consistency; then, by grinding pigment with drops of diluted yolk after which mixing in oil, a way Renaissance painters might have employed. For each samples, the presence of egg yolk slowed yellowing of the paint.  

Ophélie Ranquiet, the examine writer and a chemical engineer on the Karlsruhe Institute of Know-how in Germany, instructed CNN that their examine is one among few to look at these strategies in depth. Scientists and historians had lengthy assumed the hint quantities of proteins present in work have been as a consequence of contamination between oil and egg tempera. Nonetheless, Ranquiet and her crew now imagine the addition was purposeful. She and her crew hope their experimental findings encourage additional examine into these strategies. 

Through the fifteenth century, artists corresponding to da Vinci and Botticelli started experimenting with oil portray versus egg tempera. In “The Lamentation Over the Useless Christ” (1490–1492), Botticelli painted Christ, Mary Magdalene, and the Virgin, amongst others, with tempera, and the background stone and foregrounding grass with oil. This new sort of paint appeared extra vibrant on canvases, blended extra seamlessly, and dried slower, permitting artists to work longer on items. Nonetheless, artists utilizing oil would have found some kinks, particularly wrinkling. Da Vinci presumably struggled in early work to make use of oil as his “Madonna of the Carnation” (1478–1480) options uncommon and in depth creases across the Virgin’s face. As wrinkling begins to kind because the moist paint dries, da Vinci would have realized to combine yolk into oil paints.

Leonardo da Vinci, “Madonna of the Carnation” (1478-1480), oil on panel, 24 inches x 18 7/10 inches (through Wikimedia Commons)

Patrick Dietemann, a researcher at Munich’s Doerner Institute who labored on the examine, instructed Hyperallergic that he hopes this work will result in a greater understanding of the chemical composition of Renaissance artworks.

“This hopefully improves our understanding of how stunning artworks have been created and the way they degrade on a molecular stage, giving perception into how we are able to shield them higher for future generations,” Dietemann mentioned.

Talking about how these findings would possibly have an effect on artwork conservators, Vice-President on the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) Dr. Corina Rogge mentioned the brand new data would assist conservators when deciding on remedies as oil and egg require completely different processes. Questions on how Renaissance painters might need thought of their climates when mixing tempera and oil paints or what reactions this methodology would have with pigments aside from ultramarine blue and white instantly come up.

“We’ve most likely been underestimating the complexity of those work, and whereas up to now we’d have been in a position to recognize the creative talent of the painters, we are able to now additionally start to understand their chemical and mechanical expertise as nicely,” Rogge instructed Hyperallergic.