Materials: Egg yolk protein was an excellent additive in Old Masters oil paint | Nature Communication | Nature Portfolio

Research Press Release

Nature Communication

March 29, 2023

Materials: Egg yolk proteins are a great addition to Old Masters oil paintings

Artists known as the “Old Masters” (European art masters from the Renaissance to the 18th century), including Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and other masters of the Italian Renaissance, added proteins to oil paint. Paper suggests that the reason for this was to overcome problems such as moisture, surface wrinkles, and yellowing.Nature Communicationis published in The findings improve our understanding of the reasons why these artists added proteins such as egg yolk to their oil paintings, and may help to protect and preserve the artwork of the Old Masters.

As well as the fact that many of the traditional Old Masters artists are known to have used oil as a binder when creating their paintings, many Old Masters have found proteins in paintings. However, the reason why protein was added and the effect of adding protein in the painting process is not clear.

Ophélie Ranquet and colleagues investigated the effect of adding egg yolk protein to oil paint. As a result, it was found that the egg yolk protein forms a thin layer around the pigment particles, which can prevent water absorption in a humid environment. They also found that adding egg yolk made the paint harder, which allowed for a strong thick coat (impasto) and prevented the surface from creasing as the paint dried. Antioxidants in egg yolks also slowed the rate of reaction between oxygen components and oil, preventing the formation of a solid film and helping to prevent the yellowing that occurs as the paint dries.

doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-36859-5

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