Why Leonardo da Vinci Used Eggs to Paint His Masterpieces

Together with creating a few of the most lovely and well-known artistic endeavors in Western historical past, the “Outdated Masters” akin to Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Sandro Botticelli even have one other factor in frequent: they cherished utilizing eggs of their work.

Extra particularly, the artists would combine in egg yolks into their paints to create a medium known as egg tempera. This system dates again to historic Egypt and may be discovered on most of the work from the Outdated Masters akin to Boticelli’s “Beginning of Venus.”

We all know this as a result of modern evaluation of the compositions of their work reveal that there are added proteins to the artistic endeavors. Whereas the explanation why they used egg yolks has lengthy eluded us, a brand new examine printed Tuesday within the journal Nature Communications may reveal why.

The examine’s authors discovered the Outdated Masters may need added egg yolk to their work with a view to higher protect them towards humidity, floor wrinkling, and—paradoxically—yellowing of the portray. The proteins from the egg yolk helps forestall water uptake from humid areas, that are notably prevalent in locations like Italy the place most of the Outdated Masters labored their craft.

“In previous centuries, artists might not have been capable of management the humidity taken up by their pigments,” the examine’s authors wrote. They added that it was an enchancment to including extra oil to their work, which might end in discoloration, crack formation, and even wrinkling.

“Including some proteinaceous materials throughout pigment preparation, leading to a coating layer, may need solved the issue of unintentional formation of capillary suspensions, leading to higher, extra secure paints with greater pigment content material,” the paper acknowledged.

Sandro Botticelli’s “The Lamentation of Christ” used egg tempera as a medium.

Bavarian State Portray Collections, Munich

To achieve their findings, the examine’s authors drew on evaluation of Outdated Grasp work akin to Boticelli’s “The Lamentations of Christ” and Da Vinci’s “Madonna of the Carnation” together with chemical and molecular knowledge from lab-made egg tempera. They discovered that the egg proteins primarily created a skinny protecting layer across the paint, whereas including texture to it. This helped forestall it from wrinkling, whereas antioxidants inside the egg yolks stopped it from yellowing over time by slowing down reactions between the air and oil within the paints.

The findings present recent insights into the craft of a few of the best artists who’ve ever lived. It simply goes to indicate that whereas da Vinci and his contemporaries is likely to be gone now, there’s nonetheless lots that we are able to be taught from their processes and art work. Because the previous adage goes: It’s important to crack just a few eggs if you wish to make an omelet—and, apparently, a masterpiece murals.

Instance of wrinkling in Leonardo da Vinci’s “Madonna of the Carnation.” This piece reveals wrinkling within the shadows of the flesh paint of Mary and the kid.

Bavarian State Portray Collections, Munich.


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