Aspects of the manufacture, trade and history of smalt

Tyler, Matthew James (2021) Aspects of the manufacture, trade and history of smalt. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Smalt is a potassium-fluxed, cobalt blue-coloured glass powder that became popular throughout Europe from the late 15th to the mid-19th century as a pigment for oil painting. Current literature has dealt with the history and manufacture of smalt in a manner that is not comprehensive. The PhD originated in the quantitative studies carried out on paintings in the National Gallery collection; the objective was to take the study of the historical sources and literature further, interpreting the new information through the lens of the quantitative trends and analyses and raising new questions in the process. The thesis uses a cross-disciplinary methodological approach to address these areas, built from a combination of comparative analysis of the familiar documentary sources, and experiment design to reconstruct and measure the colour and powder characteristics of the pigment.
A study of 17th-19th century manufacturing sources, and 15th-16th century glassmaking manuscripts and books of secrets, uncovered detail about the impurities found in smalt pigment from the industrial manufacturing process and revealed connections between the origin of smalt and the history of enamelling. These outcomes were confirmed through examination of objects in the Rijksmuseum collection, and led further to an experiment to reconstruct the pigment, to explore the main characteristics of its colour. The results of this experiment led to a deeper understanding of the influence of cobalt, nickel, and iron oxides and their relationship to the particle size distribution of smalt as a powder.
Finally, the image analysis tools used for particle size measurement were adapted into a new methodology for measuring smalt in cross-sections of paintings. The particle size measurement method was combined with compositional data from SEM-EDX, and closeups of paintings, to examine the colour and use of smalt by Paolo Veronese (1528-88) and Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669). Conclusions involved an assessment of what smalts these artists would have used and how they would looked before being mixed with a binding medium.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Due to copyright issues this thesis is not available for viewing.
Keywords: Smalt, pigments, cobalt, zaffre, Saxony, manufacturing, recipes, technical art history, Rembrandt, blue, glassmaking.
Subjects: N Fine Arts > ND Painting
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Q Science > QD Chemistry
T Technology > TS Manufactures
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
Supervisor's Name: Hermens, Prof Dr. Erma and Spring, Dr. Marika and Rush, Dr. Sally
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Mr Matthew James Tyler
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-81892
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 20 Apr 2021 15:45
Last Modified: 21 Apr 2021 08:41
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81892

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