Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How A Red Lady Becomes Black And White

Date:
July 8, 2005
Source:
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Summary:
A small quantity of chloride in the red paint in the painting 'Portrait of a Young Lady' by Peter Paul Rubens in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague is causing the red parts of the painting to slowly turn black and white under the influence of light. Dutch researcher Katrien Keune has determined the cause and course of the discolouration.

Light microscope image under normal (left) and ultraviolet (middle) light and an electron microscope image (right) of a partially degraded vermilion particle. The colour transition from red to black and the white product around the blackened particle indicate that these products are not formed at the same time. The photo on the right shows how the red intact vermilion particle and the black reaction product differ in structure.
Credit: Image courtesy of Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research

A small quantity of chloride in the red paint in the painting 'Portrait of a Young Lady' by Peter Paul Rubens in the Mauritshuis Museum in The Hague is causing the red parts of the painting to slowly turn black and white under the influence of light. Dutch researcher Katrien Keune has determined the cause and course of the discolouration.

At the FOM institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics Keune investigated the pigment vermilion from a painting by Rubens. Originally this mercury sulphide containing pigment was just as red as the upper stripe of the Dutch flag. However, in the painting 'Portrait of a Young Lady' by Peter Paul Rubens this clear red colour has discoloured under the influence of light and exhibits black and white spots.

The researcher discovered that current hypotheses about the progress of the discoloration were not true. In the painting that the chemist investigated, two-thirds of the thickness of the paint layer was discoloured. Some vermilion particles were only partially affected: the upper surface was black whereas the lower surface was still red. This revealed that the particles first of all discolour into black and only then into white: a two-step degradation process. This goes against the prevailing view that the black and white colours develop at the same time.

Also the idea about exactly which reaction takes place was found not to be true. With a spatially- resolved mass spectrometer the researcher discovered that the intact vermilion contained traces of chloride, whereas the damaged vermilion contained higher quantities of chloride and mercury chloride complexes. From this Keune concluded that the traces of chloride in the red vermilion act as a catalyst in the reaction between vermilion and light. This results in nanoscopic particles of metallic mercury that completely absorbs the light and is visible on the painting as black spots. With this the long-held view that the black product was a black form of mercury sulphide was rejected. This metallic mercury subsequently reacts with the excess chloride to form a white mercury chloride compound. The degradation process is unfortunately irreversible.

Battling against the aging process

Keune's research was part of the De Mayerne research programme. This programme was set up to obtain scientific insights into the molecular changes in old works of art due to the ageing process, painting techniques and the effects of restorations carried out in the past.

Katrien Keune's research was funded by the Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter (FOM).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. "How A Red Lady Becomes Black And White." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 July 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050708060730.htm>.
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. (2005, July 8). How A Red Lady Becomes Black And White. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050708060730.htm
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research. "How A Red Lady Becomes Black And White." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050708060730.htm (accessed October 22, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Thanks, Marty McFly! Hoverboards Could Be Coming In 2015

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) — If you've ever watched "Back to the Future Part II" and wanted to get your hands on a hoverboard, well, you might soon be in luck. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Robots to Fly Planes Where Humans Can't

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) — Researchers in South Korea are developing a robotic pilot that could potentially replace humans in the cockpit. Unlike drones and autopilot programs which are configured for specific aircraft, the robots' humanoid design will allow it to fly any type of plane with no additional sensors. Ben Gruber reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Graphene Paint Offers Rust-Free Future

Graphene Paint Offers Rust-Free Future

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) — British scientists have developed a prototype graphene paint that can make coatings which are resistant to liquids, gases, and chemicals. The team says the paint could have a variety of uses, from stopping ships rusting to keeping food fresher for longer. Jim Drury reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
China Airlines Swanky New Plane

China Airlines Swanky New Plane

Buzz60 (Oct. 21, 2014) — China Airlines debuted their new Boeing 777, and it's more like a swanky hotel bar than an airplane. Enjoy high-tea, a coffee bar, and a full service bar with cocktails and spirits, and lie-flat in your reclining seats. Sean Dowling (@SeanDowlingTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins