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Materials: Egg yolk protein was an excellent additive in the oil paints of the old masters | Nature Communications | Nature’s portfolio

Research press release


Nature Communications

March 29, 2023

Materials: Yolk proteins make adding eggs to oil paintings of the Old Masters

Artists known as the “Old Masters” (masters of European art from the Renaissance to the 18th century), including Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and other Italian Renaissance masters, added protists to their oil paints. The paper indicates that the reason for this was to overcome problems such as dampness, surface wrinkles and yellowing.Nature CommunicationsThe findings improve our understanding of why these artists added proteins such as egg yolk to their oil paintings, and may help preserve and preserve ancient artists’ work.


In addition to the fact that many Old Masters traditional artists are known to have used oil as a binder when creating their paintings, proteins have been discovered in the canvases of many Old Masters. However, the reason for protein addition and the effect of protein addition in the coating process is not clear.


Ophélie Ranquet and colleagues investigated the effect of adding egg yolk protein to oil paints. As a result, it was found that the egg yolk protein forms a thin film around the dye molecules, which can prevent water absorption in a humid environment. It was also found that the addition of egg yolk made the paint more solid, allowing for a strong, thick layer (Impasto) and preventing the surface from wrinkling as the paint dried. The antioxidants in the egg yolk also slow the reaction rate between the oxygen and oil components, which prevents the formation of a hard film and helps prevent yellowing that occurs when the paint dries.

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doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-36859-5

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