Pigment degradation in oil paint induced by indoor climate: comparison of visual and computational backscattered electron images

K. Keune, R.P. Kramer, Z. Huijbregts, H.L. Schellen, M.H.L. Stappers, M.H. Van Eikema Hommes

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Abstract

For the first time the degradation of lead white pigment in mature oil paint has been used as an internal marker for the degree of saponification and hence chemical degradation of oil paint. Computational image analysis of the backscattered electron images quantified the degree of the intact lead white pigment versus the nonpigmented and lead-rich areas (degraded lead white) in the paint layers. This new methodology was applied to a series of paint samples taken from four painted wall hangings (dated 1778), which makes it possible to study the influence of indoor climate on chemical degradation of aged oil paintings. The visual interpretation and computational image analysis of the backscattered electron images revealed clear trends. The highest degree of lead white degradation in the room was found in samples from the north wall close to the windows, whereas degradation diminished further away from the window. Lead white from the south wall was less degraded, but showed a similar trend as in the paintings on the north wall. These results imply a strong relationship between chemical degradation of paint and location of the paint in the room.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-457
Number of pages10
JournalMicroscopy and Microanalysis
Volume22
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016

Keywords

  • computational image analysis
  • indoor climate
  • lead soap
  • pigment degradation
  • scanning electron microscopy

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