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Rembrandt and his Circle: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Paint Media Re-examined

Raymond White and Jo Kirby
Technical Bulletin Volume 15, 1994


Late 17th-century writers give little information on Rembrandt's paint media. Some attribute his thick impasto to multiple reworkings, and others to fast working. Here Rembrandt, Jan Lievens, Pieter Lastman, Ferdinand Bol, Govert Flinck, Gerbrand van den Eeckhout and Jan Victors are discussed and media analyses by GC-MS are presented.

Linseed, walnut, and poppy oils were available at the time, the last two being known to yellow less, initially. Oil extraction methods and heat prepolymerisation methods of the 17th century are described, with analyses of specific paintings highlighted. Linseed was commonly found, walnut sometimes, and poppy not at all. Heat-bodied oils were used to form impasto, or with otherwise slow drying pigments. This was Rembrandt's method, whereas others in his circle added small amounts of pine resin to their paint, or sometimes used asphalt or bitumen without adding sufficient driers.


asphalt, bitumen, drying oil, gas chromatography mass spectrometry, heat, Netherlands, paint, paintings (objects), pine resin, poppy-seed oil, Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn

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White, R., Kirby, J. 'Rembrandt and his Circle: Seventeenth-Century Dutch Paint Media Re-examined'. National Gallery Technical Bulletin Vol 15, pp 64–78.

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