CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Rembrandt’s palette: pigments from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century

Exhibition: 7 August 2004 - 30 January 2005

Museum press release, 4 August 2004

Rembrandt’s palette: pigments from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century uses Rembrandt’s palette as a starting point to illustrate the history, method of manufacture, and evolution of artists’ pigments, revealing the dependence artists have on the technology and available materials of their time. A recreation of Rembrandt’s palette will be exhibited with samples of the colors available in his time. Each of the paints was hand-ground using pigment and linseed oil in the same method employed by Rembrandt’s studio.
Specific pigments found in Rembrandt’s paintings have been identified by technical analysis conducted in museums worldwide, and scholars have made extensive study of these pigments. This precise understanding of pigments has been critical in authenticating a number of Rembrandt’s paintings. The use of many seventeenth-century pigments was discontinued as advances in chemistry led to less costly and more stable pigments. Today, modern materials have replaced almost all of the pigments used by Rembrandt. Many of these replacement paints have retained the traditional pigment names such as Naples yellow, carmine, Cassel earth and vermilion.

Although modern, primarily synthetic, pigments may match the tone and intensity of traditional paint, they often do not retain the subtle characteristics of the traditional natural materials. These modern counterparts to traditional pigments will be included in the exhibition to illustrate the evolution of artists’ paints.

Michael Skalka, conservation administrator from the National Gallery of Art, will present a lecture on Rembrandt’s Palette at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 7 in The Dayton Art Institute’s NCR Renaissance Auditorium. The lecture is free for museum members and students with a valid ID. Non-members will be charged $15, which includes admission to the special exhibition, Rau Collection: European masterpieces from September 4, 2004 – January 16, 2005.


The exhibition is supported in part by Golden Artist Colors, Inc. and Gamblin Artists Colors Co. The presentation of Rembrandt’s palette at The Dayton Art Institute is sponsored by McAllister’s, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2004.