Workshop « Molecular Transformations in Oil Paint »

Session AAP :

AAP 2022-5

Scientific responsability :

  • Victor Gonzalez
  • Joen Hermans
  • Claire Bételu

Partnership :

  • Rijksmuseum

Funding :

  • MSH Paris-Saclay

Summary :

The workshop ( will address the important issue of molecular transformations in oil paint. Researchers have recently discovered numerous chemical pathways that can lead to changes in paint materials (e.g., crystallization of coordination complexes, or non-original inorganic phases), with potentially devastating effects on paintworks. The understanding of these complex chemical reactions and equilibria is a crucial fundamental step to support the preservation of historical paintings, and a subject of major scientific interest today for the research fields of heritage science, conservation-restoration, and art history. In order to reach this objective, it is essential to develop new analytical tools and to open the question to new methodological approaches. Moreover, it is important to confront the physico-chemical vision of this phenomenon with its tangible manifestation for the “direct” actors in conservation and restoration, in order to reconcile fundamental and practical approaches of heritage preservation, from chemistry to art history. The workshop will thus focus in particular on innovative approaches to probe works of art on a multi-scale, within the laboratory or directly from the museum rooms. The meeting will be hosted at the Dutch College of the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, further supporting the initiation of this strong partnership between the Ile-de-France region, the leading museum of the Netherlands (Rijksmuseum), and Dutch university groups expert in the study of the chemistry of painted works (Van’t Hoff Institute, UvA).

The workshop will be structured around invited lectures, given by international specialists, with complementary analytical/methodological expertise, allowing to collectively reach a better vision of the problematic of molecular transformations at stake in composite systems [organic binders + organic and/or inorganic coloring materials]. A significant amount of time will be reserved for discussion, allowing to support the development of a dynamic research community. Finally, a satellite conference for the general public will be given in parallel to the workshop. It will aim to highlight the latest advances in the understanding of the degradation of historical paintings, as well as the solutions proposed for their conservation and restoration.