About the episode
An international team of scientists is on the project Operation Night Watch lead formate. This is the first time this compound has been found in chemical research on historical paintings. The find could give new insight into 17th-century painting technique and the masterpiece’s conservation history.
The research team combined various methods to determine the chemical composition of The Night Watch at the micrometer level. The researchers suspect that the main compound comes from the linseed oil used by Rembrandt. The idea is that it contained a dissolved lead oxide, intended to improve the drying properties of the oil.
So she recreated paint in the lab using original historical formulas and they were able to confirm the formation of lead formate in a paint system with leaded linseed oil. The formation of formate at the microscopic scale is again linked to the presence of lead oxide, which allowed them to formulate new hypotheses on the possible chemistry of formate in old layers of paint.
The next step for the team is to further investigate the origin of the formate and see if it could also have come from previous The Night Watch restorative treatments.
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