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Integrated mass spectrometry approach for the chemical characterization
of original paint tubes used by Edvard Munch


A Winsor&Newton paint tube from Munch atelier


We are presently involved in two international projects in collaboration with the Munch Museum (Oslo) and the University of Oslo, aimed at understanding the painting techniques used by Edvard Munch (1863–1944), in order to select proper approaches for the restoration of his works.
In particular, we are investigating several sketches owned by the Munch Museum, prepared by the artist in relation to the mural decoration of the Aula Magna of the University of Oslo (1916). Moreover, a specific diagnostic campaign is focused on the original paint materials from Munch’s atelier (
We are using a combined protocol based on both GC/MS and HPLC-ESI-Q-ToF analytical techniques to detect the fatty acids and triglycerides profile of the possible lipid binders used by the artist, and to identify other components of the paints as proteins, waxes and resins. The molecular changes associated with ageing will be also evaluated by our comprehensive study. The analyses reveale that Munch used different types of binding media in the sketches, alone or in combination, often within the same painting. The distribution of the triglycerides in the paint tubes showed the presence of a mixtures of different plant oils in the formulations, including walnut, palm and linseed oil.

Published papers
• La Nasa J., “Development of innovative analytical tools based on chromatography and mass spectrometry for the characterization and ageing studies of modern materials in artworks”, PhD thesis, 2014, Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry-University of Pisa.
• Uldanck D., “Caratterizzazione chimica dei materiali pittorici industriali del XIX-XX secolo mediante tecniche spettroscopiche e cromatografiche”, Master Thesis. 2014, Department of Chemistry and Industrial Chemistry-University of Pisa.
• La Nasa J., Zanaboni M., Uldanck D., Degano I., Modugno F., Kutzke H., Tveit E.S., Colombini M.P., ”Novel application of liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry for the characterization of drying oils in art: elucidation on the composition of original paint materials used by Edvard Munch”, (1863-944) in preparation.


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