Successful conference on state-of-the-art metal soap research

Amsterdam scientists present latest research results

15 March 2016

The conference ‘Metal Soaps in Art’ held 14 and 15 March in the Rijksmuseum was a great success. Hundreds of scientists, art historians and conservators visited Amsterdam to explore metal soap related degradation phenomena in works of art, and to discuss their relevance to future conservation strategies.

Researchers from the PAinT project at the University of Amsterdam (Paint Alterations in Time) made a considerable contribution to the conference, held within the framework of NICAS, the newly formed Netherlands Institute for Conservation, Art and Science. Not only did they play a major part in the organizing committee, they also presented the latest result of their research performed for a large part at the UvA's Van 't Hoff Institute for Molecular Sciences.

A major achievement of the PAinT researchers is the development of a model describing the formation and development of metal soaps over time, from the moment of mixing oil and pigments until the formation of metal soap aggregates and the appearance of visible defects in paint layers. These dynamics of metal soap formation were presented by PAinT PhD student Joen Hermans. Other important contributions were made by PAinT researchers Katrien Keune, Annelies van Loon and Maartje Stols-Witlox.

S4A-PAinT Project

The relevance of metal soaps for degradation phenomena in paintings can hardly be underestimated. Approximately 70% of paintings in museum collections are affected by metal soaps. Increased transparency of the paint, insoluble whitish surface hazes, tiny aggregates deforming the paint surface, water sensitive and dripping paints are examples of paint defects caused by the formation of metal soaps.

Conservators are confronted with these affected paintings, and are trying to find suitable treatments, optimal display and storage conditions. Scientists apply the latest high-tech analytical techniques and diagnostic tools with the aim to understand the underlying mechanisms of metal soap-related degradations in paints.

The conference bought together 220 art historians, conservators and scientists from 20 countries, to discuss conservation strategies, implications for appearance, as well as the analytical challenges.

Published by  HIMS