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Painting on copper: The preparatory layer

Daniel Vega, Isabel Pombo Cardoso and Leslie Carlyle

Abstracts

In this research about painting on copper technology, 18 historical sources, covering six different languages, dated from the 17th and 18th centuries were collected, allowing to systematise most information about materials and techniques applied on these sorts of paintings. Twelve paintings from the same period mentioned above were studied and compared with the historical literature.

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Introduction

1Paintings on copper became popular during the 16th and 17th centuries when many artists adopted this rigid, non-absorbent support for oil painting [1, 2, 3]. Discovering how these paintings were executed presents a double challenge since the historical documentation is both limited and dispersed. This research, which looks at the characterisation of copper paintings, aims to combine literature references with analysis from actual paintings. Twelve European paintings originating in Portugal, Flanders, Spain and Italy, on metal (eleven on copper and one on brass) were chosen for study. The paintings date from the 17th and 18th centuries, therefore information from the artists’ manuals and treatises (covering six different languages) focuses on this period. Analyses of the paintings were carried out with non-invasive and micro-invasive techniques,

2including stereomicroscopy, X-radiography, μ-Energy Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence spectroscopy (μ-EDXRF), μ-Raman spectroscopy (μ-Raman) and Optical Microscopy (OM).

3This poster focuses on the results related to the preparatory layers, chosen for investigation primarily because they can be difficult to detect visually and with the stereomicroscope, as evidenced in the study group of paintings. For the preparatory layers only three of the analytical techniques revealed meaningful results (see below).

Fig.1  Table

Fig.1  Table

Historical literature from the 17th and 18th century

1. Stereomicroscope

4No ground layer was visible where paint is lost since both ground and paint have detached. Areas of loss reveal that the surface of the copper plates was likely sanded before painting. This was suggested by different authors (C, D, F, Q, R, cf. table), for example De la Hire (1730) states on page 474 that the copper plates, should be:

5…dressed & pumiced… (…dresses & poncée…)

2. Optical microscopy

6A thin and even preparatory layer was found on all paintings. It appears in OM images to be a single layer, however, since multiple applications of the same material do not necessarily show a layer structure a single application cannot be confirmed.

Fig. 2: Cross-sectiosn showing preparatory layers and paint

Fig. 2: Cross-sectiosn showing preparatory layers and paint

On the left: painting originating from Portugal

On the right: painting originating from Spain

3. μ-Raman

7The main pigments identified in preparation layers from the paintings are lead white (2PbCO3.Pb(OH)2) and a carbon based black. Other materials identified were red lead (Pb3CO4), vermilion (HgS), calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and iron oxides: probably haematite (α-Fe2O3) or goethite (α-FeOOH). Written sources specify most of these materials, for example on page 385 Pacheco (1649) states: The plates are prepared with lead white, and umber in oil… (Las laminas se empriman con Alvayalde, I sombra a Olio…)

Conclusions

8In the paintings studied, a thin (10-20μm) preparatory layer ranging from light brown to white was consistently found between the copper support and paint layers, despite the poor visibility of this layer by observation and stereomicroscopy. Its presence and the materials used were anticipated by consulting artists’ manuals and treatises contemporary with the period studied, and were confirmed with analysis.

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Bibliography

[1] Van de Graaf, J.A., “Development of oil paint and the use of metal plates as a support”, Conservation of paintings and the graphic arts: preprints of contributions to the Lisbon Congress, 9-14 October 1972, London, IIC, 1972, pp.139-152.

[2] Bowron, E.P., A brief history of European oil paintings on copper, 1560-1775, Copper as Canvas: Two Centuries of Master piece PaintingonCopper,1575-1775, edited by PHOENIX ART MUSEUM, New York, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp.9-44.

[3] Horovitz, I., Copper as a support for easel paintings, The Conservation of Easel Paintings, edited by J. Hill Stoner & R. Rushfield, London, Butterworths-Elsevier, 2012, pp.99-106.

[A]Félibien, A.,Des principes de l’architecture, de la sculpture; de la peinture, et des autres arts qui en dependent. Avec un dictionnaire des termes propres à chacun de ces Arts, Paris, Jean-Baptiste Coignard, 1676.

[B] De la Fontaine, J.H., L’Academie de la peinture. Nouvellement mis au jour pour instruire la jeunesse à bien peindre en huile & en Mignature. Et qui enseigne le mélange des Couleurs avec la manière de les bien preparer pour imiter la Nature & pour donner la force aux Figures, où il est necessaire, & à faire les Teintes, les Jours, & les Ombres, Paris, Baptiste Loyson, 1679.

[C] De la Hire, P., Œuvres diverses de Mr De la Hire, de l’Academie Royale des Sciences. Memoires de L’Academie Royale des Sciences, Depuis 1666 Jusqu’ à 1699, vol. 9, Paris, Compagnie des Libraires, 1730.

[D] Pernety, A.J., Dictionnaire portatif de peinture, sculpture et gravure; avec un traité pratique des differentes manieres de peindre, Dont la Théorie est développée dans les Articles qui en sont susceptibles. Ouvrage utile aux Artistes, aux Eleves & aux Amateurs, Paris, Bauche, 1756.

[E] Anonymous, L’Ècole de la miniature, ou L’art d’apprendre à peindre, 9e ed, corrected by Chistophe Balard, Paris, J. B.G. Musier, 1759.

[F] De Piles, R. ; Jombert, C.A., Les premiers elemens de la peinture pratique, nouvelle édition entièrement refondue et augmentée considérablement par C.A. Jombert, Amsterdam, Arkstée and Merkus, 1766.

[G] Dutens, M.F., Principes abrégés de Peinture, Tours, Auguste Vauquer, 1779.

[H] Le Pileu d'Appligny, Traité des couleurs matérielles, Et de la manière de colorer, relativement aux diffèrens Arts & Métiers, Paris, Saugrain & Lamy - Barrois, 1779.

[I] Pacheco, F., Arte de la Pintura, su antiguedad y grandeza. Descrivense los hombres eminentes que ha avido en alla, assi antiguos como modernos; del dibujo, y colorido; del pintar al fresco; de las encarnaciones, de polimento, y de mate; del dorado, bruñido, y mate. y ensena el mondo de pintar todas las pinturas sagradas, Sevilla, Simón Faxardo, 1649.

[J] Anonymous, Tractado del Arte de la Pintura, manuscript, Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid, MS. 5917, fol 172-187, 1656.

[K] Palomino de Castro y Velasco, A., El museo pictorico y escala optica. Tomo segundo. Practica de la Pintura en que se trata de el modo de pintar à el olio, temple, y fresco, com la resolucion de todas las dudas, que en su manipulacion pueden ocurrir. Y de la Perspectiva comum, la de Techos, Angulos, Teatros, y Monumentos de Perspectiva, y otras cosas muy especiales, con la direccion, y documentos para las Ideas, ò Assumptos de las Obras, de que se ponen algunos exemplares, Madrid, Viuda de Juan Garcia Infancon, 1724.

[L] Barrow, J., Dictionarium polygraphicum: or, the whole body of arts regularly digested, 2nd ed, vol. 2, London, C. Hitch, 1758.

[M] Dossie, R., The handmaid to the Arts, teaching, London, J. Nourse, 1758.

[N] Watin, J.F., L'Art du Peintre, Doreur, Vernisseur; Ouvrage utile aux Artistes & Amateurs qui veulent entreprendre de Peindre, Dorer & Vernir toutes sortes de sujets en Bâtimens, Meubles, Bijoux, Equipages, &c. in-8º. De 400 pages, en trois parties : Par le Sieur Watim, Peintre, Doreur, Vernisseur, & Marchand de Couleurs, Dorures & Vernis, 2nd ed, Paris, Grangé, 1773.

[O] Griselini F.; Fassadoni, M., Dizionario delle Arti e de’ Mestieri, compilato innanzi da Francesco Griselini es ora continuato dall’ abate Marco Fassadoni, vol. 13, Venice, Modesto Fenzo, 1772.

[P] Eikelenberg, S., Aantekeningen over de schilderkunst, manuscript, Regionaal Archief,  Alkmaar, MS  390–394, 1679.

[Q] Anonymous, Nieuwen almanach der konst- schilders; vernissers, vergulders en marmelaers, Voor het Jaer Ons Heere Jesu Christi M.DCC.LXXVII. Inhoudende IX. Hoofdstuckeen, Ghent, Philippe Gimblet and brothers, 1777.

[R] Hallen, J.S., Werkstäte der heutigen Künste, oder die neue Kunsthistorie, vol. 1, Brandenburg und Leipzig, Johann Wendelin Halle und Johann Samuel Halle, , 1761.

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List of illustrations

Title Fig.1  Table
Caption Historical literature from the 17th and 18th century
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/5105/img-1.jpg
File image/jpeg, 120k
Title Fig. 2: Cross-sectiosn showing preparatory layers and paint
Caption On the left: painting originating from Portugal
URL http://ceroart.revues.org/docannexe/image/5105/img-2.jpg
File image/jpeg, 11M
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References

Electronic reference

Daniel Vega, Isabel Pombo Cardoso and Leslie Carlyle, « Painting on copper: The preparatory layer », CeROArt [Online], HS | 2017, Online since 01 June 2017, connection on 26 July 2017. URL : http://ceroart.revues.org/5105

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About the authors

Daniel Vega

Isabel Pombo Cardoso

Leslie Carlyle

Department of Conservation and Restoration, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Caparica, Portugal; 2 REQUIMTE-CQFB, Faculdade de Ciências e Tecnologia, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Caparica, Portugal. d.vega@campus.fct.unl.pt

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Copyright

Licence Creative Commons
CeROArt – Conservation, exposition, restauration d'objets d'arts est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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