Understanding old masters’ painting techniques

Laurence de Viguerie (Laboratoire d’Archéologie Moléculaire et Structurale, Paris) — October 13, 2016

Abstract :
Nicolas Poussin once wrote ``I have neglected nothing”.
When it comes to understanding past painting techniques, or optimizing the conservation conditions of an old work of art, or simply for authentification purposes, the study of the materials used by the artists is absolutely essential. Given that sampling on precious works of art is often restricted and sometimes even prohibited, non-invasive methods have been developed to investigate in situ the composition of paintings.

In this talk, I will illustrate the wide variety of the physical techniques at one’s disposal on a few selected paintings. I will show how these techniques can be combined to obtain an exhaustive characterization of the work of art. Furthermore, I will explain why an actual reconstruction of the paint in the chemistry lab, based on the painting analysis and old recipes, is actually necessary to reach a complete understanding of the artist technique.

Biography :
Laurence de Viguerie is researcher at LAMS, Laboratory of Molecular and Structural Archeology, specialized in oil paint formulations. After a PhD thesis on the the famous “sfumato” of Leonardo da Vinci, and two years of post-doctoral research in soft matter physics, she joined the LAMS four years ago. Her research aims at in-depth physico-chemical characterization of oil paint materials combined to in situ artwork analysis using complementary techniques such as XRF, XRD, and spectrophotometry.

You can also watch this video on savoirs.ens.fr