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 Posts and pages on topics related to technical art history

Lala Ragimov

 Inspired by Rubens (Getty Museum page, featuring my work)
 Copying a Rubens drawing - materials, techniques
  Copying a Rubens painting - materials, techniques  

 1400s-1700s drawing treatises online
 Preparing to draw (from 1400s-1700s treatises)
 Hatching and shading (from 1400s-1700s treatises)

 Roger de Piles on drawing technique (my translation)
 Jombert's drawing treatise (excerpts in my translation)

 Renaissance woodcut tools

Image gallery of my copies and reconstructions

 Painting materials of Rubens; bibliography (see below)

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Painting materials of Peter Paul Rubens

This information comes from restoration and conservation articles listed in the bibliography.  Almost all these colours are available through historic pigments suppliers (Kremer Pigments, Natural Pigments, Zecchi, Натуральные пигменты, Рублёвская палитра, etc).  Some like Natural Pigments and Michael Harding even sell them in tubes.  I make my own paint and work with most of these colours every day, and I would encourage any artist to give them a try.  

Rubens's palette (pigments):

Synthetic:  lead white (stack process), vermilion (dry process), lead-tin yellow (type I), verditer (blue-green), Eschel variety smalt (blue and colourless kinds, latter sometimes used as an additive in all colours), verdigris (limited use), 
    (rarely mentioned: red lead / minium)

Minerals:  lazurite / natural ultramarine / lapis lazuli, azurite
    (rarely mentioned: malachite; orpiment (found in several very early paintings done in Italy); quarz (mentioned only by Altamura, used as an additive/siccative))

Earths:  yellow, brown and red-brown earths (including hematite or hematite-containing earths), umber
Cassel / Cologne earth / Van Dyck brown,  
chalk (calcium carbonate, fossil origin, sometimes added to all paints), 
    (rarely mentioned: asphaltum (Feller), green earth (Von Sonnenburg))

Organic originstil de grain / schietgeel / brown pink (buckthorn berry yellow lake), cochineal lake, indigo (usually in underpaint for lazurite), charcoal black (for example in the blueish-grey colour in flesh tones), 
    (rarely mentioned or underidentified: madder lake, bone black, lamp black)

Vehicles (medium):

linseed oil, walnut oil (often in whites, blues and light colours)

turpentine, pine resin (trace amounts often found in glazes, said to come from turpentine); egg (white, yolk) (detected in some paintings)


panels: made of oak planks from circa 1.2cm (1610s) to 0.6cm (1630s) thick 

covered by calcium carbonate chalk in glue (gesso) 
and a streaky priming (imprimatura) of yellow or brown earths or/and charcoal black, sometimes some lead white, in oil or in a medium containing egg, possibly an egg-oil emulsion

canvas: usually tabby weave linen with a double oil priming: a yellowish or reddish thicker layer (yellow or red earths, chalk, sometimes small quatities of other pigments) covered with an opaque thinner grey or buff layer (lead white and charcoal black).

Rubens palette, pigments, brushes  
a palette from a Rubens painting "Education of Marie de' Medici" (Louvre)
to me the paints look like vermilion, lead-tin yellow, lead white with mixtures, ochres, and other earths below

Rubens Palette sketch

a palette from an oil sketch for the above painting (Louvre)
on panel, note the streaky imprimatura.


Altamura, Maria Luisa, ed. Marco Ciatti “La tecnica artistica di Rubens nelle due grandi tele degli Uffizi.“ Rubens agli Uffizi: il restauro delle Storie di Enrico IV. (Florence, Edifir, 2001), 49-59

Brown, Christopher. Rubens's Landscapes: Making and Meaning, London: National Gallery London, 1998.

Bruce-Gardiner, Robert and Helen Braham. “Rubens's Landscape by Moonlight”, The Burlington Magazine, vol. 130, no. 1025, (1988), 579-596.

Buck, Richard. “Rubens's The Gerbier Family; examination and treatment”, Studies in the History of Art (1973): 32-53.

Boersma, Annetje, Friso Lammertse and Alejandro Vergara. “Catalogue”, Peter Paul Rubens. The Life of Achilles, (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2003).

Cardinali, Marco, Maria Beatrice De Ruggieri, Claudio Falcucci. "I dipinti di Rubens alla Vallicella: Studio della tecnica esecutiva" in La festa del colore: Rubens alla Chiesa Nuova, ed. Anna Gramiccia. (De Luca Editori d'Arte, 2005), 39-63. 

Doherty, Tiarna, Mark Leonard and Jorgen Wadum. “Brueghel and Rubens at Work: Technique and the Practice of Collaboration”, Rubens and Brueghel a Working Friendship. (Los Angeles: The J. Paul Getty Museum and the Hague: Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in association with Waanders Publishers, Zwolle, 2006), 215-251.

Feller, Robert L. “Rubens's The Gerbier Family; technical examination of the pigments and paint layers”, Studies in the History of Art (1973): 54-74

Fisher, Sarah. “The Finding of Erichthonius”, Allen Memorial Art Bulletin, vol. 38, no.1 (1980-1981): 21-37.

Fabian, Daniel. “Wan eim ein geschossener Pfeil im Lieb ist plieben”, Hommage à Paolo Cadorin; l’amour de l’art, (1999), 117-126.

Goetghebeur, Nicole; Guislain-Wittermann, Régine; and Masschelein-Kleiner, Liliane. "Painting Technique", Bulletin (Institut Royal du Patrimoine Artistique), vol. 24 no 182 (1992):  119-138.

Keith, Larry. “The Rubens Studio and the Drunken Silenius Supported by Satyrs”, National Gallery Technical Bulletin, vol. 20 (1999): 96-104.

Kirby, Joe. “The Painter’s Trade in the 17th Century,” National Gallery Technical Bulletin, vol. 20 (1999): 5-49.

Lammerste, Friso. “Small, larger, largest. The making of Peter Paul Rubens’s Life of Achilles”, Peter Paul Rubens. The Life of Achilles, (Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2003), 11-31.

Plesters, Joyce. “Samson and Delilah: Rubens and the Art and Craft of Painting on Panel”, National Gallery Technical Bulletin, vol. 7 (1983): 30-49.

Nykogosyan, Mariam. "Susanna and the Elders from the Rostov Regional Museum of Fine Arts; the lost painting of Rubens' studio?", VDR Beitrage zur Erhaltung von Kunst- und Kulturgut, (2005): 28-37.

Roy, Ashok. “Rubens’s Peace and War”, National Gallery Technical Bulletin, vol. 20 (1999): 89-95.

Saunders, Linnaea. “A Rubens Portrait Re-examined”, AIC Paintings Specialty Group Postprints, vol. 18 (Minneapolis: June 8-13, 2005), 76-83.

Stols-Witlox, Maartje, Tiarna Doherty and Barbara Schoonhoven. "Reconstructing  seventeenth-centrury streaky imprimatura layers used on panel painting" inPreparation for Painting, the Artist's Choice and its Consequences. (London: Archetype Publications, 2008), 79-89.

Von Sonnenburg, Hubertus. “Rubens Bildaufbau und Technik II. Farbe und Auftragstechnik”, Maltechnik Restauro, vol. 85, issue 3 (1979), 181-203

Wadum, Jorgen. “Latest News from Paradise a Preliminary Attempt to Identify Rubens's Studio Practice, Part II”, Preprints of the ICOM Committee for Conservation 13th Triennial Meeting, (Rio de Janeiro, 22-27 September 2002), 473-448.

Wallert, Arie. Still Lifes: Techniques and Style, (Amsterdam: Rijksmuseum Amsterdam; in association with Waanders Publishers, Zwolle, 1999).

© Lala Ragimov 2009