Digital Tour – Vivid View: The Art and Science of Paint Analysis

Dining Room Mantel, Eppington

Image of paint history on dining room mantle, Eppington

Photo by Dr. Susan Buck. Courtesy of Eppington Foundation

Resembling a geological formation, this dramatic paint stratigraphy from the dining room’s fireplace mantel at Eppington (c. 1770), in Chesterfield County, Virginia illustrates what can happen to paints and varnishes when exposed to excessive heat. The earliest paints at the bottom of the cross-section are partially melted and deformed, and there are deep cracks extending downward from the most recent layers at the top. 

The repeated application of green paints in various shades suggests a desire to replicate the earliest paint color in subsequent refurbishments. The most intact woodwork cross-sections from Eppington contain 16 generations of paint. The early verdigris-based green paints were applied onto a gray primer. The gray primer color was typical of the time because it enhanced the color of the more translucent verdigris pigments. The room was repainted with a similar verdigris-based green paint in the fourth generation, which is the thick, uneven green layer at the center of the image.

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