Pigments in Western easel painting

Nicholas Eastaugh, Jilleen Nadolny, and Sarah Lowengard Including: Binding media

Authored by: Erma Hermens , Joyce Townsend

Conservation of Easel Paintings

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367023799
eBook ISBN: 9780429399916
Adobe ISBN:


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A strong sense of material history emerges from both the scientific analysis of works of art and the reading of any of the numerous treatises and other documents of the past connected with paintings. From antiquity to modern times these many and varied sources illustrate the evolution of artists’ materials and techniques, their discovery, popularity, and decline. A fundamental question that can be asked, however, is this: why are specific materials used in a particular work of art created in a very specific time and place? Why is lapis lazuli found on paintings of the fifteenth century but not of the late nineteenth? Why is calcium sulphate typically found in the preparation of a panel in sixteenth-century Italy but calcium carbonate on its Netherlandish equivalent? The answers touch upon much of contemporary technical art-historical enquiry, as well as relating to topics such as paint technology, terminology, and the interpretation of analytical data. This chapter aims to provide a concise contextual overview of these interwoven areas, give further pointers into the wider literature, plus offer some broader grasp of the key developments that have affected material history.

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