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Extraction of Material from Oil Paints by Solvents

  • David Erhardt (a1), Roland H. Cunningham (a1) and Sirpa Räsänen (a2)

Abstract

Drying oils used to formulate oil paints consist primarily of polyunsaturated triglycerides, along with smaller amounts of mono- and diglycerides, free fatty acids, and other compounds such as sterols. The drying of oils occurs through an oxidative crosslinking process that also produces smaller scission products such as short chain fatty acids and diacids. Compounds that are not attached to the crosslinked oil matrix include glycerin, the unreactive free saturated fatty acids and their glycerides, soaps of fatty acids produced by reaction with metal ions from the pigment, and scission products. As the oil ages, additional soluble material is produced by hydrolysis of glyceride esters. These relatively low molecular weight compounds can be extracted by exposure to solvents, as occurs during the cleaning of paintings. Excessive extraction of material canembrittle the paint film and affect the appearance of the paint. This paper examines the types and amounts of compounds extracted from oil paint films as a function of solvent, exposure time, pigment, and age of the paint. The results indicate that solvents vary more in the speed that they extract material than in their selectivity. The composition of the extracts is consistent with predictions based on the mechanisms of the drying and aging processes. These results confirm the importance of using the least polar solvent possible to clean paintings and to formulate varnishes.

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1. Tumosa, C. S. Millard, J., Erhardt, D. and Mecklenburg, M. F. in 12th Triennial Meeting Lyon 29 August - 3 September 1999, edited by Bridgland, J. (ICOM Committee for Conservation, Brussels, 1999) pp. 347352.
2. Berg, J. D. J. van den, Berg, K. J. van den, and Boon, J. J. in 12th Triennial Meeting Lyon 29 August - 3 September 1999, edited by Bridgland, J. (ICOM Committee for Conservation, Brussels, 1999), pp. 248253.
3. Erhardt, D. and Tsang, J. S. in Preprints of the Contributions to the Brussels Congress, 3-7 September 1990. Cleaning, Retouching, and Coatings, edited by Mills, J. S. and Smith, P. (The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Historic Works, London, 1990) pp. 9397.
4. Erhardt, D. Tumosa, C. S. and Mecklenburg, M. F. in Preprints of the Contributions to the Melbourne Congress, 10-14 October 2000. Tradition and Innovation: Advances in Conservation, edited by Roy, A. and Smith, P. (The International Institute for Conservation of Historic and Historic Works, London, 2000), pp. 6569.

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Extraction of Material from Oil Paints by Solvents

  • David Erhardt (a1), Roland H. Cunningham (a1) and Sirpa Räsänen (a2)

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