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Subject: Lead white of fine particle size

Lead white of fine particle size

From: Marya Albrecht <marya.albrecht<-at->
Date: Thursday, March 15, 2012
For my master thesis in paintings conservation, I am searching for
paintings in which lead white of a very fine and even particle size
has been used.

The only well-researched and well-documented painting in which this
type of lead white is used, is "The art of Painting" by Johannes
Vermeer (Kunsthistorisches Museum Vienna). In the top layers of the
lighter areas, lead white with a grain size of approximately 0.5 um
is used, as opposed to lead white with a grain size of 2-7 um used
in the underlayers. This painting has recently been researched and
treated.

In an article by Jaap Boon following from this research

    Boon, J. "Beobachtungen zur fragilen. Die Malkunst von Vermeer"
    in Haag, S. et al. Vermeer Die Malkunst Vienna:
    Kunsthistorisches Museum, 2010: 235-253)

the use of this fine, even grade of lead white is linked to a
specific type of damage that has occurred in this painting. The use
of different grades of lead white has caused the layers to respond
to tension differently. The top layers of the lighter areas are
glass-like and flaking off the underlayers.

For my master thesis I will be researching the mechanical and
optical properties of paints made with these fine, even lead white
particles. Also, I will try to establish how widespread the use of
this fine grade of lead white was in the 17th century in the
Netherlands. Since there are some references in painter's manuals to
methods for particle size selection, it seems unlikely Vermeer was
the only painter to have used such a method. If you have come across
a 17th century Dutch painting in which very fine, even lead white
has been used, or in which a comparable delamination problem has
occurred, could you please let me know? Any information is welcome!
Of course, information will only be used in the thesis after
consultation with the information-giver.

Marya Albrecht
Master student in paintings conservation
University of Amsterdam


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Received on Thursday, 15 March, 2012

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