Applied Physics A

, Volume 121, Issue 3, pp 779–788 | Cite as

Blanching of paint and varnish layers in easel paintings: contribution to the understanding of the alteration

  • Anaïs Genty-VincentEmail author
  • Myriam Eveno
  • Witold Nowik
  • Gilles Bastian
  • Elisabeth Ravaud
  • Isabelle Cabillic
  • Jacques Uziel
  • Nadège Lubin-Germain
  • Michel Menu
Invited Paper


The blanching of easel paintings can affect the varnish layer and also the paint layer with a blurring effect. The understanding of the physicochemical and optical phenomena involved in the whitening process remains an important challenge for the painting conservation. A set of ca. 50 microsamples from French, Flemish, and Italian blanched oil paintings, from sixteenth to nineteenth century, have been collected for in deep investigations. In parallel, the reproduction of the alteration was achieved by preparing some paint layers according to historical treatises and altering them in a climatic chamber in a humid environment or directly by immersing in ultrapure water. The observation of raw samples with a field-emission gun scanning electron microscope revealed for the first time that the altered layers have an unexpected highly porous structure with a pore size ranging from ca. 40 nm to 2 μm. The formation mechanism of these pores should mostly be physical as the supplementary analyses (Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, gas chromatography–mass spectrometry) do not reveal any noticeable molecular modification. Considering the tiny size of the pores, the alteration can be explained by the Rayleigh or Mie light scattering.


Paint Layer Altered Sample Litharge Varnish Layer Altered Layer 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anaïs Genty-Vincent
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Myriam Eveno
    • 1
  • Witold Nowik
    • 1
  • Gilles Bastian
    • 1
  • Elisabeth Ravaud
    • 1
  • Isabelle Cabillic
    • 1
  • Jacques Uziel
    • 2
  • Nadège Lubin-Germain
    • 2
  • Michel Menu
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre de Recherche et Restauration des Musées de France (C2RMF)Palais du Louvre - Porte des LionsParisFrance
  2. 2.Laboratoire de Chimie Biologique (LCB), EA 4505Université de Cergy-PontoiseCergy-Pontoise CedexFrance
  3. 3.Fondation des sciences du PatrimoineCergy-Pontoise CedexFrance
  4. 4.Chimie ParisTech-CNRS, Institut de Recherche Chimie Paris, UMR8247PSL Research UniversityParisFrance

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