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Saturday, June 2 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Research and Technical Studies) Tracing back: How trace elements in smalt and ultramarine used by 17th century Dutch artist Jan Steen, start to shed light on the chronology of his oeuvre

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Jan Steen (c. 1625-1679) is one of the best-known artists of the Dutch Golden Age. Although he painted many different subjects, he is most famous for his genre paintings with merry companies. One key feature of his extensive oeuvre remains elusive: its chronology. Only 10% of his works were dated by the artist. Steen was prolific, he worked in different cities, and his painting style and techniques varied. This has made dating his paintings complex and problematic. Jan Steen’s oeuvre of about 400 paintings provides a unique opportunity to mesh traditional art history with new investigative techniques to reconstruct the chronology of his work and gain more insight into the materials and techniques he used over the years. The research started with the fifteen paintings by Jan Steen in the collection of the Mauritshuis. They are nicely spread out over the years that Jan Steen has been active. This group of paintings is enlarged with researching dated paintings in his oeuvre from other collections, with the aim of using these as a marker for the rest of his oeuvre. So far 37 paintings by Jan Steen have been studied in depth. This number is still growing, and complemented with the study of paintings by his contemporaries from the cities where he worked. Our hypothesis is that he influenced, and was influenced by the artists around him, and that he may have adapted his materials and techniques to local artistic traditions. In addition to the infrared photos and X-rays, a small number of paint samples have been taken from the paintings, and analyzed with SEM-EDX. Various point measurements have been carried out and for all the cross-sections elemental maps have been created. While it was initially thought that studying the color and pigment composition of his ground layers might shed a light on the city in which the paintings where executed and hence give it a place in the chronology of his oeuvre, the focus has shifted during the research. Next to the study of the ground layers, certain pigments in his paint layers are now studied in more depth. By looking at trace elements in his blue pigments, like smalt and ultramarine, two pigments Steen used a lot, we found some promising results considering the chronology. A rather new tool in the study of paintings to get more information out a large number of data is the use of a statistical database. By doing multivariate analyses on a chosen data set the correlation between variables can be found which without this analyses will be overlooked. For Jan Steen paintings it turned out that by putting the trace elements found in the pigment smalt he has used, but also the smalt used by contemporaries, in a statistical database, clusters of paintings were formed after the multivariate analyses, which could be correlated to the cities where he worked. These results are very promising and give already more insight into the chronology of his work. This research will now be extended with his use of ultramarine.

Speakers
avatar for Sabrina Meloni

Sabrina Meloni

Paintings Conservator, Royal Picture Gallery Mauristhuis
Sabrina is a paintings conservator working in the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis. She has a master’s degree in Art History from Leiden University, where she specialized in Italian Renaissance Art, with a master thesis about the origin of oil painting in 15th-century Florence... Read More →

Co-Authors
avatar for Dr. Ralph Haswell

Dr. Ralph Haswell

Research Scientist, Shell Global Solutions International B.V.
Ralph Haswell earned his PhD in Physics from the University of Surrey in 1991 and since then he has worked for Shell in Amsterdam on the microstructural characterization of solids. His particular area of expertise is electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy of... Read More →
avatar for Dr. Annelies van Loon

Dr. Annelies van Loon

Paintings Research Scientist, Rijksmuseum
Annelies van Loon is a paintings research scientist both at the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam) and the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis (The Hague). She received a master’s degree in chemistry, a post-doctoral diploma in the conservation of easel paintings from the Limburg Conservation... Read More →
DO

Dr. Onno de Noord

Principle Research Scientist/Consultant for Advanced Data Analyses, Shell Global Solutions
Onno de Noord recently retired as Principal Research Scientist at Shell Global Solutions in Amsterdam, where he spent most of his professional career. He studied Pharmacy at the University of Groningen, where he specialized in Analytical Chemistry and Chemometrics. At his university... Read More →

Saturday June 2, 2018 3:00pm - 3:30pm
Meyerland Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston

Attendees (43)