Forensic Art History: the Ädel Painting Dispute 1839-1841

Ingalill Nyström, Jacob Thomas, Yvonne Fors, Liv Friis, Anders Assis, Kaj Thuresson


This article concerns a 19th century dispute about twenty pieces of decorated furniture painted by the 19th century painter Anders Erik Ädel (1809-1888) from Söderhamn, Hälsingland, Sweden. Ädel is considered to be one of the foremost painters in Hälsingland. His art works - painted furniture and interiors - are displayed in museums and can also be found in the Decorated Farmhouses of Hälsingland, UNESCO World Heritage. In 1839, Ädel accused his client, the farmer Erik Olofsson, in court of having paid too little for the objects he had painted as he had used more pigments than those for which he had been paid. Almost 180 years later scientific methods combined with historic source research were used to understand what pigments Ädel actually used. Through this study we demonstrate how multidisciplinary collaboration between sciences and humanities can contribute to deeper knowledge and new interpretations. The scientific analyses were preceded by analyses of the judicial protocols found. Non-invasive analyses using XRF instruments were conducted in situ, supplemented by other spectroscopic methods in the lab. The judicial protocols give an insight into what pigments Ädel had access to, and when combined with the scientific analyses, this information provides historic evidence of the artist's materials and painting technique.


XRF; DSA-ToF-MS; Raman; FT-IR; folk art; pigment

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DOI: 10.6092/issn.1973-9494/7941


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