Understanding the technological and economical history of enigmatic green copper sulfate pigments in Flemish Renaissance art. 01/11/2020 - 31/10/2024


The beginning of the 16th century marked the start of a prosperous time for Flanders with the flourishing of culture, trade and science directly reflected into the works of art of the Antwerp School. However, the year 1500 does not only mark a period of stylistic revolution, the works of art also change from a technological point of view with Flemish painters experimenting with innovative materials and techniques, an aspect that has remained understudied hitherto. In this framework, recent analytical studies signaled the use of copper sulfates, an unknown green pigment type, that seems to witness the artist's pursuit to expand the limited range of pigments and enhance the realistic representation of nature. The aim of this research is to understand (a) the use (prevalence, technique, relation to other green pigments), (b) the provenance (where was it produced), the production method (historical technology) and (c) the trade (how and why did it come to Flanders) of these new materials. This will be done by combining the study of textual historical sources and the physical reproduction of the technology with a chemical screening of paintings and illuminated manuscripts. In this way, we propose exploiting the new vistas created by the recent introduction of chemical imaging techniques to enhance our understanding of the interplay of science, technology and trade with the bloom of Flemish Renaissance art and its stylistic innovations.


Research team(s)

Project type(s)

  • Research Project