Jason Daley: Smithsonian.com

Artists are constantly using new pigments and oils to produce more vibrant, luminous and interesting colors. Rembrandt van Rijn was no different. The Dutch Old Master had technique, creativity and painstaking labor going for him. He also had chemistry. A new analysis of his works shows he used a rare compound in some of his paints, which helped him pull off his signature impasto technique, Henri Neuendorf at artnet News reports.

Historians already knew that Rembrandt used readily available compounds such as lead white pigment and oils like linseed oil to make the paste-like paints he piled in thick layers to give his work a three-dimensional appearance. When a team of researchers from The Netherlands and France subjected tiny paint samples from three of his best-known works—”Portrait of Marten Soolmans,” “Bathsheba” and “Susanna”— to X-ray analysis at the European Synchrotron in Grenoble, France, however, they detected another compound they weren’t expecting: a lead carbonate mineral called plumbonacrite, Pb5(CO3)3O(OH). …Read More

Pictured: Rembrandt self portrait / Wikimedia commons