An old oil painting of large old sailing ship on a windy sea with two other smaller ships

Source: C.W. Eckersberg “Et dansk orlogsskib

The 84-gun Danish warship Dronning Marie by CW Eckersberg that is displayed in the National Gallery of Denmark, one of the paintings investigated in the new study

Cereal and yeast proteins linked to beer production have been found, for the first time, in canvas paintings from the Danish Golden Age. The authors of the study said the discovery helped to unravel key links between Danish society and art.

The researchers used protein sequencing by tandem mass spectrometry to characterise the protein residues in the ground layers of 10 paintings from the Danish Golden Age, a belle époque for art in Denmark during the first half of the 19th century.

Following analysis, proteins from cereal species, including wheat and barley, and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, or baker’s yeast, were identified as binders in seven of the paintings. The researchers said the amount found was too high to be down to contamination alone. Instead, they said the most likely source of cereal grains and baker’s yeast proteins was a byproduct of beer brewing, a theory backed up by literature sources.

The authors noted that beer was used ‘in the cleaning and restoration of paintings, and Danish literature specifically reports its use as adhesive, paint binder and for painting lining’.