A preliminary note on the incidence of discolouration of smalt in oil media

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Plesters, Joyce;


Studies in conservation, Volume 14, Number 2, p.62-74 (1969)


discoloration, media, oils, smalt


Although smalt, a glass, might be expected to behave as a stable pigment, discolouration of smalt-containing paint layers has been observed. Early references from the literature are cited which mention the discolouration of smalt in oil media. Originally blue layers on paintings have changed into dull grey or greyish-green. Experiments suggest the following factors for this discolouration: low refractive index of the pigment compared with that of oil media; interaction of alkali content or cobalt content with oil and oleo-resinous media; the possibility of similar reactions with resin-or oil-resin varnishes in certain conditions. Discolouration may also occur if smalt is mixed with other pigments, or added as a drier or as an adulterant. A proper understanding of the mechanism of the deterioration would require further research by more sophisticated methods.