Science. The Grenoble Synchrotron sheds light on a painting by Rembrandt and his chiaroscuro painting

Grenoble researchers from the Synchrotron are collaborating with the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam to study Rembrandt’s masterpiece “La Ronde de Nuit.” Using X-ray microscopes, they analyze the chemical compounds in the paint and unearth the Flemish master’s mystery ingredients.

The experience is not without irony. Who would have thought that one day Rembrandt, the master of chiaroscuro, would need light? A fortress of the Synchrotron of Grenoble, amongst that, the most powerful?

Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, where his paintings are on display “Night Watch”, painted in 1642, attempts to enlighten the restorers of the work on its components for its rehabilitation.

Within the framework of this research carried out for two years, the request for the Great Scientific Establishment of Grenoble was made.

Generates incredible electron exciters “Lines of Light”, X-ray beams used in non-standard microscopes. This “synchrotron light” makes it possible to analyze the infinitely small. And it’s good in this specific case.

“Night Watch” Couldn’t leave Amsterdam and its royal museum, let alone be cut for sampling. Rijksmuseum associate researcher Victor Gonzalez brought back pigment dust from different areas of Rembrandt’s painting in Grenoble.

Barely a few micrograms of artistic genius passed through the superloop.

light on mystery material

“We are mainly looking for two things”Scientists say. “First, how did Rembrandt prepare the materials that make up his masterpiece La Ronde de Nuit today, and then how did these materials evolve”.

And it was unexpectedly that the teams in Grenoble discovered a mysterious component of the painter. They are unwilling to tell us more because they have not published their research yet.

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“The great surprise of our work is that we found a complex in the Night’s Watch that, until now, to our knowledge, no one had identified in historical painting. So we really want to understand the origin of this compound and What does it translate to. From Rembrandt’s pictorial technique “, indicates Marine Cote who pulverized the pigment dust with X-rays in the capital of the Alps.

Follow the trail of chemical clues

“What should be understood is that each painter had his own recipes. In the case of Rembrandt, these are often very complex recipes”, says Victor Gonzalez.

“He continues to amaze us because he is someone who has experimented a lot: he has tried many things with the preparation of pigments, his oils, etc… We try to understand how these recipes work. the way the work is presented to us today. From there, it will help us adapt restoration and conservation treatments so that the Night Watch is still accessible to future generations.”.

So these chemical clues would, perhaps, allow to recreate the palette of the master of baroque painting. “There are a lot of pictorial influences in Rembrandt’s works that we still don’t understand. We still don’t know how he applied them today. We have a general idea of ​​the materials he has. Used but certain are the painting effect that he was the only master”Confirm Victor Gonzalez.

The mystery remains unsolved, especially concerning serifs. “Such a three-dimensional painting that appears to protrude from the canvas and thereby makes it possible to give special optical properties to the painting”.

Two Years Analysis for Exploitation

Researchers have bundles of clues about the pigments used by Rembrandt, but they don’t know what the exact recipe was made in his workshop.

Will the chemical compound be found thanks to the synchrotron’s X-rays, thus becoming part of the material used by Rembrandt to give a special effect to his canvas or is it the result of his paints deteriorating over time?

Will the Flemish Artist’s Illustrated Secrets Be Revealed? Verdict in a few months, when the researchers publish their work.

In the meantime, they must study and sort 51 terabytes of data.

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