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In Photos: Van Gogh Masterpiece Reveals True Colors

Changing Colors

Vincent Van Gogh's "Flowers in a blue vase" painting,

(Image credit: Kröller-Müller Museum)

Scientists had noticed an odd color change occurring in Vincent Van Gogh's "Flowers in a blue vase," which he painted in Paris in 1887. Apparently, the yellows were turning orange-gray over time (see the discoloration in the upper right). Researchers reporting in the journal Analytical Chemistry have found a chemical reaction at the interface of a protective varnish and the paint is the culprit. The boxes show where tiny paint samples were taken for analysis.

Yellow to Orange

Vincent Van Gogh's "Flowers in a blue vase" painting,

(Image credit: Kröller-Müller Museum)

The color-change (from bright yellow to orange-gray) in Van Gogh's "Flowers in a blue vase" can be seen to the right and upper right of the painting. Two microsamples were taken from these areas.

Hidden Chemicals

Vincent Van Gogh's "Flowers in a blue vase" painting,

(Image credit: K. Janssens/University of Antwerp. )

From the tiny paint sample (shown in an optical-microscope image), the researchers looked at levels of four compounds.

Paint Chips

Vincent Van Gogh's "Flowers in a blue vase" painting,

(Image credit: I. Montero/ESRF.)

Microsamples from art masterpieces, molded in Plexiglass plates ready for investigation with synchrotron X-rays. The historic paint tube at the bottom is from the personal collection of M. Cotte.

Tiny X-Rays

Vincent Van Gogh's "Flowers in a blue vase" painting,

(Image credit: ESRF)

Artist's illustration of a Plexiglass plate with a microsample mounted for investigation in the vacuum chamber of the synchrotron X-ray microscope. The small spot in the center of the Plexiglass block is the sample from the Van Gogh painting, and the cylindrical tube connects it with the X-ray detector.

Losing Luster

Van Gogh's "Banks of the Seine" painting.

(Image credit: Vincent van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.)

Researchers have also analyzed Van Gogh's "Banks of the Seine" (1887), finding a chemical reaction caused the painting to lose its luster.