Evidence for the Accumulative effect of organic Solvent Treatments on Paintings and What to Do about It: A Case Study of Two „Identical” Seventeenth-Century Paintings Using Single-Sided NMR

Two paintings made by the same artist in 1616 to depict The Dinner and The Dance celebrations of the Pipenpoyse Wedding were examined at Stichting Restauratie Atelier Limburg, Maastricht, Netherlands. In addition to a shared provenance these paintings demonstrated similarities in their composition and identical materials and techniques. However, the paintings exhibited dramatic differences in their condition, and inconsistencies between their previous treatments were apparent. One of the paintings, The Dinner, had undergone repeated surface treatments of varnishing and varnish removal, whereas the other, The Dance, had never been varnished. The paintings thus presented an opportunity to potentially examine the accumulative effects of paint surface treatments using organic solvents. Detailed depth profiles of the two paintings were measured using single-sided nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). This type of NMR is sensitive to physical properties of the material such as hardness and is a contact-free technique. The T2 relaxation times, indicative of the hardness or stiffness of a material, were found to be different for the two paintings and consistent with the observed visual and tactile differences. With regard to these findings the contribution from the repeated exposures to natural resins and organic solvents during paint surface treatments is considered. Various developments in current conservation practice have aimed to restrict the penetration of solvent into paint films and thereby reduce related solvent effects. Initial findings from investigations using single-sided NMR on model paint films to compare the effects of such adapted approaches are presented.

R. Fife, B. Stabik, B. Blümich, R. Hoppenbrouwers, T. Meldrum, Evidence for the Accumulative effect of organic Solvent Treatments on Paintings and What to Do about It: A Case Study of Two „Identical” Seventeenth-Century Paintings Using Single-Sided NMR, in: T.D. Austin Nevin, ed., The Noninvasive Analysis of Painted Surfaces: Scientific Impact and Conservation Practices, Smithsonian Institution Scholary Press, Washington D.C., 2016, pp. 15-23. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/320870159_Evidence_for_the_accumulative_effect_of_organic_solvent_treatments_on_paintings_and_what_to_do_about_it_A_case_study_of_two_identical_17th_century_paintings_with_single-sided_NMR