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Concept: Van Gogh Museum


The painter, Vincent van Gogh, and some of his contemporaries frequently made use of the pigment chrome yellow that is known to show a tendency toward darkening. This pigment may correspond to various chemical compounds such as PbCrO(4) and PbCr(1-x)S(x)O(4), that may each be present in various crystallographic forms with different tendencies toward degradation. Investigations by X-ray diffraction (XRD), mid-Fourier Transform infrared (FTIR), and Raman instruments (benchtop and portable) and synchrotron radiation-based micro-XRD and X-ray absorption near edge structure spectroscopy performed on oil-paint models, prepared with in-house synthesized PbCrO(4) and PbCr(1-x)S(x)O(4), permitted us to characterize the spectroscopic features of the various forms. On the basis of these results, an extended study has been carried out on historic paint tubes and on embedded paint microsamples taken from yellow-orange/pale yellow areas of 12 Van Gogh paintings, demonstrating that Van Gogh effectively made use of different chrome yellow types. This conclusion was also confirmed by in situ mid-FTIR investigations on Van Gogh’s Portrait of Gauguin (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam).

Concepts: Vincent van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum


Summary: The radiate sunflower inflorescence is composed by zygomorphic ray flowers and actinomorphic disk flowers. Studies performed on mutants identify HaCYC2c, a CYCLOIDEA (CYC)-like gene, as one of the key players controlling flower symmetry in sunflower. turf and tub mutants are characterized by a shift from zygomorphic to actinomorphic ray flowers, caused by insertion of transposable elements (TEs) in HaCYC2c gene. In dbl or Chry mutants, an insertion upstream the coding region of HaCYC2c causes the ectopic expression of the gene and the shift from actinomorphic to zygomorphic disk flowers. We focused on Chry2 mutant: a 1034 bp insertion placed 558 bp before the start codon of HaCYC2c was identified. The insertion is a truncated version of a CACTA TE. Unexpectedly, phenotypic and genetic co-segregation analysis in F2 and F3 progenies derived from the crosses Chry2 × turf and turf × Chry2 demonstrated that CACTA insertion is not always sufficient to alter the expression of HaCYC2c gene and generate Chry2 phenotype. F3 plants homozygous for the CACTA insertion displayed either HaCYC2c transcription pattern identical to wild type plants or a normal heterogamous inflorescence. Stated these results, we conclude that a much more complex regulatory system stays behind the Chry2 phenotype. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Evolution, RNA, Plant morphology, Flower, Vincent van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum


This paper presents firm evidence for the chemical alteration of chrome yellow pigments in Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam). Noninvasive in situ spectroscopic analysis at several spots on the painting, combined with synchrotron-radiation-based X-ray investigations of two microsamples, revealed the presence of different types of chrome yellow used by Van Gogh, including the lightfast PbCrO4 and the sulfur-rich PbCr1-x Sx O4 (x≈0.5) variety that is known for its high propensity to undergo photoinduced reduction. The products of this degradation process, i.e., Cr(III) compounds, were found at the interface between the paint and the varnish. Selected locations of the painting with the highest risk of color modification by chemical deterioration of chrome yellow are identified, thus calling for careful monitoring in the future.

Concepts: Light, Color, Pigment, Yellow, Expressionism, Vincent van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum, Chrome yellow


In the present study, we examined the eye movement behaviour of children and adults looking at five Van Gogh paintings in the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam. The goal of the study was to determine the role of top-down and bottom-up attentional processes in the first stages of participants' aesthetic experience. Bottom-up processes were quantified by determining a salience map for each painting. Top-down processing was manipulated by first allowing participants to view the paintings freely, then providing background information about each painting, and then allowing them to view the paintings a second time. The salience analysis showed differences between the eye movement behaviour of children and adults, and differences between the two phases. In the children, the first five fixations during the free viewing phase were strongly related to visually salient features of the paintings-indicating a strong role for bottom-up factors. In the second phase, after children had received background information, top-down factors played a more prominent role. By contrast, adults' observed patterns were similar in both phases, indicating that bottom-up processes did not play a major role when they viewed the paintings. In the second phase, children and adults both spent more time looking at regions that were mentioned in the background information. This effect was greater for adults than for children, confirming the notion that adults, when viewing paintings, rely much more on top-down processing than children.

Concepts: Expressionism, Vincent van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum


The discoloration rate of chrome yellow (CY), a class of synthetic inorganic pigments (PbCr1-xSxO4) frequently used by Van Gogh and his contemporaries, strongly depends on its sulfate content and on its crystalline structure (either monoclinic or orthorhombic). Macroscopic X-ray powder diffraction imaging of selected areas on Van Gogh’s Sunflowers (Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam) revealed the presence of two subtypes of CY: the light-fast monoclinic PbCrO4 (LF-CY) and the light-sensitive monoclinic PbCr1-xSxO4 (x ≈ 0.5; LS-CY). The latter was encountered in large parts of the painting (e.g., in the pale-yellow background and the bright-yellow petals, but also in the green stems and flower hearts) indicating their higher risk for past or future darkening. Overall, it is present in more than 50% of the CY regions. Preferred orientation of LS-CY allows to observe a significant ordering of the elongated nanocrystallites along the direction of Van Gogh’s brush strokes.

Concepts: Diffraction, Crystallography, Crystal system, Powder diffraction, Flower, Crystallographic database, Vincent van Gogh, Van Gogh Museum