The Unexpected Ingredient in Some Famous Art Pieces


| LAST UPDATE 04/03/2023

By Elena White
Mona Lisa strange discovery
C2RMF via Wikimedia Commons

If you've ever been to the Louvre, chances are you've spent some time staring into the eyes of the famous Mona Lisa. For hundreds of years, the finest art fanatics have spent countless hours examining the inner workings of this spectacular piece, analyzing the intricate details that went into its creation. But just when we thought we had uncovered everything there was to know about this work of Leonardo da Vinci, researchers made an interesting discovery. A new study revealed that da Vinci was one of the painters who mixed egg yolk into their oil paint! Believe it or not, there's a credible reason for it, too...

According to the study published by Nature Communication, these egg yolk additions weren't a result of a food craving gone astray but rather a somewhat technical move to ensure a longstanding design. As these researchers explained, Renaissance artists such as da Vinci and Sandro Botticelli mixed egg yolk into the oil paint to ensure the paintings could withstand humid temperatures and avoid going wrinkly or yellow.

Renaissance Artists strange discovery
Isaac Bullart via Wikimedia Commons
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Although it was previously discovered that protein residue was present within these famous paintings, it was speculated to have been an accident. This new research argues that the eggy addition was a deliberate move on behalf of the artists. "There are very few written sources about this, and no scientific work has been done before to investigate the subject in such depth," the study's author, Ophelie Ranquet, explained to CNN.

The study's authors explained that the yolk "acts as an antioxidant, slowing down the onset of curing." The egg proteins help to limit the amount of water absorbed into the paint, particularly in more humid settings. They continued, "Our results show that even with a very small amount of egg yolk, you can achieve an amazing change of properties in the oil paint, demonstrating how it might have been beneficial for the artists." Ultimately, by doing so, they "gave us the opportunity to admire their masterpieces still today," the study said. As for the importance or relevance of this research, the authors maintain that by investigating the age-old painting habits, we "might improve the preservation of invaluable artworks."

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