A holistic view of the role of egg yolk in the Old Masters’ oil paints

A holistic view of the role of egg yolk in the Old Masters’ oil paints

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A study by an international team, which was attended by researchers from the Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry of the University of Pisa (Ilaria Bonaduce and Celia Duce), the National Interuniversity Consortium for Materials Science and Technology (INSTM) and the Institute of Chemistry of Organometallic Compounds of the CNR (Emilia Bramanti), revealed important aspects related to the preparation of the oil paintings of the old masters.

Model paints were prepared in the laboratory using two of the main pigments used for painting over many centuries, lead white and ultramarine, in combination with linseed oil and egg yolk, to study their chemical and physicist.

Analyses conducted using rheology techniques, differential scanning calorimetry, thermogravimetry, analytical pyrolysis coupled to mass spectrometry and infrared spectrophotometry, have shown how different microstructures can be produced, and how these present different chemical-physical properties. The egg appears to act as an antioxidant, slowing down the onset of drying and promoting the formation of reticulated networks less prone to oxidative degradation than oil alone, promoting the stability of the pictorial layers.

Ranquet, O.; Duce, C.; Bramanti, E.; Dietermann, P.; Bonaduce, I.; Willenbacher, N. “A holistic view on the role of egg yolk in Old Masters’ oil paints”. Nat. Commun. 2023, 14, 1534. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-023-36859-5

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