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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Analyzing Vouet’s Venus

by Serena Urry, Chief Conservator


CAMConservation , Vouet , pigments , pigment analysis , pigment identification

A few weeks ago, two scientists from the Center for Archaeometry & Art Research Palatinate (CAAP) in Germany spent the morning in one of our European galleries to analyze Toilette of Venus, a painting by French artist Simon Vouet (1590–1649). Archaeometry is the science of determining ages and origins of archaeological specimens and historical artworks, and in this case, the German team wanted to learn more about the pigments Vouet used when he painted Venus.

Utilizing two different types of X-ray equipment, the scientists, led by Dr Thorsten Bieker, analyzed the chemical composition of Vouet’s paints to establish a chronology in which to place each of his artworks over the course of the artist’s career. Venus is signed and dated (1629), so it is an important addition to the scientist’s data and provides a critical benchmark. Of course, CAAP’s findings will also add to our own understanding of Vouet’s painting, so we always welcome visits like this.

Two scientists analyze a massive painting with some gear set up in a gallery
Simon Vouet (French, 1590–1649), Toilette of Venus, 1629, oil on canvas, Fanny Bryce Lehmer Endowment, 1970.459