- Rembrandt mixed wheat flour into at least two of his paintings -- an ingredient that previous analyses had not revealed.
- The flour probably made his paint thicker, stickier and more transparent.
- Knowing what ingredients are in an ancient painting can help scientists protect and preserve it.
Amidst his palette of reds and browns, Rembrandt used wheat, according to a new state-of-the-art analysis of two of his works.
It is the first study to identify wheat starch in any of Rembrandt's work, even though scientists have performed numerous analyses on more than 150 of the 17th-century Dutch artist's paintings. Rembrandt probably used wheat flour to make his paints stickier and more transparent, among other properties.
Identifying ingredients in old paintings can help curators decide how best to maintain, display and restore them. The study also offers surprisingly new insights into the techniques that Rembrandt dabbled with as he created his masterpieces.
"Scientific reports on Rembrandt's painting technique are so numerous that we did not expect to do much more than confirm what was already known," said Jana Sanyova, an analytical chemist at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage in Brussels. "The most striking result is undoubtedly the presence of starch, which to our knowledge has not been observed before in Rembrandt's work."