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Séminaire du LAMS : mercredi 21 juin à 11h00

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A Dialog Between Instrumental Techniques in the Study of Paintings by Gerrit Dou

John Twilley, Stony Brook University

The painting methods and materials employed by Gerrit Dou, Rembrandt’s first pupil and the progenitor of the fijnschilder style, have been studied in a group of thirteen paintings spanning the artist’s career. The study employed instrumental microanalysis to augment diagnostic imaging by infrared and X-radiography and microscopic examination of Dou’s paint handling and sequences of application. Compositional and stratigraphic analysis were initially used to investigate certain key pigments and Dou’s means of achieving precision in the optical effects that were the basis for his success as an artist. Subsequently, synchrotron X-ray elemental mapping brought to light a profoundly complicated evolution in the composition of one painting that had not been disclosed by other examination methods. However, only 30% of Dou’s palette can be identified unambiguously by s-XRF. In spite of these limits, inferences on the presence of undetectable species could be drawn from the prior microanalytical work and applied to the resulting elemental maps. Guided by this synchrotron work, a subsequent stage of very limited and specific microanalytical investigation allowed the confirmation of pigments outside the range of XRF mapping and clarified the imagery in the earlier stages of painting.