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  1. #1
    Marco B's Avatar
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    Long term stability of Pt/Pd prints on paper

    Hi all,

    Now I have no doubt that almost any Pt/Pd print will easily outlast any untoned silver gelatine print, but one thing kept nagging me...

    It is a not much discussed topic here on APUG, almost seems to be avoided, but I already knew Platinum (and probably Palladium as well), is a rather strong and effective catalyst, speeding up and enabling chemical reactions. One of the reasons it is used in car's exhausts.

    Now I had already seen and partly read James M. Reilly's

    “Care and Identification of 19th Century Photographic Prints”

    document showing a Pt/Pd print been in contact with another paper, leaving a visible "mirror" image on the other paper by it's catalytic activity. See the attached image in this post. This is not just a "harmless" discolouring of the paper though... as I now recently read an article by Mike Ware about his Gold based Chrysotype process, referring to "embrittlement" of the paper base of Pt/Pd prints. While the highly noble and stable metals themselves will last indefinitely, the paper base and photographic image itself might be lost at some point...

    Chrysotype: Photography in Nanoparticle Gold

    Mike Ware literally writes in this document:

    "It has already been stated that chrysotype resembles the better-known, and at one time widely acclaimed, platinotype process (38). New chrysotypes are extremely light-fast and resistant to chemical attack; they therefore enjoy an archival permanence at least equalling, and perhaps surpassing, that of the platinotype. The conservatorial problem which has beset all historic platinotypes arises from the high catalytic activity of platinum black, which can bring about the aerial oxidation of SO2 to SO3, thus causing serious acid embrittlement of the paper base by sulphuric acid formed in situ. In contrast to platinum, nanoparticle gold has a very low catalytic activity in this respect (39), so this problem should be absent from chrysotypes. The longevity of the paper substrate will also be enhanced by the alkaline conditions of the wet processing, in contrast to the hydrochloric acid clearing baths sometimes used to process platinotypes."

    Both James M. Reilly and Mike Ware are highly authoritative and credible sources, and in addition the example image shows that we are not only talking of a "theoretical" option, but a real thread to the very long term survival of the Pt/Pd print.

    As the process described by Mike is depended on the presence of sulphurdioxide gas, the generally good recommendation for photos of proper framing behind glass, especially in the polluted environment of an urban city, seems a necessity. It will probably be very effective as a conservation method, as it simply blocks air circulation at the surface of the print, keeping SO2 load to an absolute minimum. In addition, but all Pt/Pd printers are undoubtedly already doing this, only the highest quality 100% cotton rag cellulose papers seems recommendable, to give the paper the maximum chance of long term survival.

    What are your thoughts and comments on this issue?

    Marco
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Platinotype_catalytic_activity.jpg  
    Last edited by Marco B; 06-04-2010 at 11:09 AM. Click to view previous post history.
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  2. #2

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    Thanks for the insight.

    As for the remedy:
    a. Print chrysotypes! (It's a beautiful process and not too many appreciate it...)
    b. (For the conservatives AND conservationists) An alkali buffering bath each 100 years? (Along with keeping the print in good condition/environment - as you stated above...)

    Regards,
    Loris.

  3. #3
    dpurdy's Avatar
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    everyone I know uses highest quality cotton for pt/pd.

  4. #4
    Marco B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dpurdy View Post
    everyone I know uses highest quality cotton for pt/pd.
    Yes, but that by itself is not enough, cotton is just a purer form of cellulose that is less susceptible to self destruction like the cheap high lignin content wood pulp papers like newspaper. Hence the framing recommendation remains.
    My website

    "The nineteenth century began by believing that what was reasonable was true, and it wound up by believing that what it saw a photograph of, was true." - William M. Ivins Jr.

    "I don't know, maybe we should disinvent color, and we could just shoot Black & White." - David Burnett in 1978

    "Analog is chemistry + physics, digital is physics + math, which ones did you like most?"

  5. #5

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    BTW, (a completely different issue but wanted to mention anyway) if etchings/photogravures (which are made using inks with "oil" binder - oil is big BIG enemy to the paper) are keeping well, why wouldn't pt/pd exhibit similar performance?

  6. #6
    Marco B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loris Medici View Post
    BTW, (a completely different issue but wanted to mention anyway) if etchings/photogravures (which are made using inks with "oil" binder - oil is big BIG enemy to the paper) are keeping well, why wouldn't pt/pd exhibit similar performance?
    What is your remark that "oil is a big enemy to paper" based on? Can you give some more info or literature references?

    Oils in those etching inks are mostly likely natural drying oils like linseed oil used in oil painting. "Drying" is actually a VERY BAD description of the process, as it suggests a solvent (like water, turpentine) is evaporating, while in reality "drying oils" like linseed, actually do not need a solvent to be fluid and harden by reacting with Oxygen (O2) in the atmosphere in a kind of polymerization process.

    I know this polymerization process releases small amounts of potentially harmful peroxides (if I remember well), but this process stops as soon as all oil has "hardened / dried", it is a finite process, contrary to the continuing acidification if the platinotype is exposed freely to air...
    My website

    "The nineteenth century began by believing that what was reasonable was true, and it wound up by believing that what it saw a photograph of, was true." - William M. Ivins Jr.

    "I don't know, maybe we should disinvent color, and we could just shoot Black & White." - David Burnett in 1978

    "Analog is chemistry + physics, digital is physics + math, which ones did you like most?"

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    Hi Marco, what about a little googling? (Search for: Oil on paper and longevity etc., for instance.) Linen is way stronger than cotton (they were wrapping mummies with linen ribbons remember?) and unprimed (see: gesso) linen canvas will rot if you put oil paint on it. Same for paper... I repeat: if etchings / photogravures are OK, then why pt/pd prints are not?

  8. #8

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    The Frederick Evans prints at the Getty looked pretty good to me...how long do you want your prints to last anyway?

  9. #9
    Marco B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loris Medici View Post
    Hi Marco, what about a little googling? (Search for: Oil on paper and longevity etc., for instance.) Linen is way stronger than cotton (they were wrapping mummies with linen ribbons remember?) and unprimed (see: gesso) linen canvas will rot if you put oil paint on it. Same for paper... I repeat: if etchings / photogravures are OK, then why pt/pd prints are not?
    Loris, I don't actually completely understand your point. Your remark is equivalent to "My grandfather lived 120 years, so why should a Pt/Pd print not survive as long?"... :o

    You're comparing apples and pears... I just made remarks about Pt/Pd longevity and possible issues with the paper base based on a couple of good references.

    And about linen and cotton: I am not even sure if cotton was a "base material" for clothing 3 millenia ago. OK, found a reference: cotton, although produced, was not a very common material in Egypt for clothing. And from what I know of the history of clothing in Europe it wasn't either (mainly wool, linen, leather):

    http://www.historyforkids.org/learn/clothing/cotton.htm

    And don't forget that the mummies wrappings seem also to be glued together with resin, probably further protecting the linen.

    http://library.thinkquest.org/C01169.../hwrapping.htm

    "More linen strips are wrapped around the body. At every layer, the bandages are painted with liquid resin that helps to glue the bandages together."
    My website

    "The nineteenth century began by believing that what was reasonable was true, and it wound up by believing that what it saw a photograph of, was true." - William M. Ivins Jr.

    "I don't know, maybe we should disinvent color, and we could just shoot Black & White." - David Burnett in 1978

    "Analog is chemistry + physics, digital is physics + math, which ones did you like most?"

  10. #10
    Marco B's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loris Medici View Post
    and unprimed (see: gesso) linen canvas will rot if you put oil paint on it. Same for paper... I repeat: if etchings / photogravures are OK, then why pt/pd prints are not?
    Loris,

    I have a Dutch book on painting (Het Kunstschildersboek by Kraaijpoel & Herenius) by some Dutch paint experts, and they actually discuss your "rotting canvas" myth, but argue against it: Exactly for the reason you give yourself: Etchings DON'T rot, linen is for the most part similar cellulose as the paper, so why would linen rot??? In addition, they point out, besides having run an unprimed linen oilpaint test for 20 years without issues turning up, that other high cellulose materials (like wood itself), overpainted with oil paints, don't rot / oxidize either... or does your painted wooden living room table fall apart

    According to this book, any small damage (as per the suggested process of drying I described above) would occur in the beginning, stopping when the oils of the paint had dried.

    I think the rotting linen myth is more likely originated from old paintings hanging in wet cold European climates against damp walls and getting attacked by mould... a completely different issue.

    I repeat: any oil based damage (if it at all occurs in minute amounts) is a FINITE process, while the catalytic acidification of platinotypes is a continued process as long as sulphurdioxide can reach the print.

    Marco
    Last edited by Marco B; 06-04-2010 at 01:49 PM. Click to view previous post history.
    My website

    "The nineteenth century began by believing that what was reasonable was true, and it wound up by believing that what it saw a photograph of, was true." - William M. Ivins Jr.

    "I don't know, maybe we should disinvent color, and we could just shoot Black & White." - David Burnett in 1978

    "Analog is chemistry + physics, digital is physics + math, which ones did you like most?"

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