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23 May 2016 @ 01:18 pm
conservation never ceases  
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Art conservationists struggle with microscopic eruptions in masterpieces

Lurking in paint layers, metal soaps are forming and damaging paintings


Metal soap formation is not just a curious trait of Rembrandt’s “Anatomy Lesson” but a degradation phenomenon common to thousands of oil paintings over many eras—starting in the 13th century and increasing in prevalence in modern-day artwork. After Noble, Boon, and colleagues launched an international survey of conservators, they discovered paintings by artists as varied as Francisco de Goya, Marc Chagall, Vincent van Gogh, Piet Mondrian, and Georgia O’Keeffe that feature the curious paint chemistry. “We were all seeing metal soaps,” Noble says.

Metal soaps don’t just produce pockmarks; they can also lead to the formation of disfiguring crusts and reflective films on the surface of paintings. Formation of the soaps can even cause delamination, a process in which layers of paint deform, lift up, and flake off. “These are serious issues when you are talking about paintings whose value is measured in millions per square meter,” Boon says.</blockquote