Synthetic Organic Pigments Research Aggregation Network




SOPs have been widely applied in modern and contemporary painting and are also used extensively in conservation-restoration practice. Nevertheless, historic and scientific interest in the history and characteristics of SOPs has been very limited. While SOPs have already 150 years of history, in which hundreds of different SOPs have been synthesized, these pigments are understudied in comparison to the more classic ranges of natural minerals and synthetic inorganic pigments. Still little is known about the history of SOPs including their stability and degradation characteristics and interaction with the paint binder.

The importance of thorough knowledge on the use of SOPs is of high importance. SOPs are found not only in paintings and sculptures, but also in a wide variety of contemporary forms of art (e.g. plastics). Organic compounds generally are more prone to degradation, but there is hardly any information available on the stability in relation to the matrix in which they are captured. Information on the history of these pigments is scarce and scattered, yet it is of uttermost importance to know which have been used, and since when. Not only to comprehend stability issues and the fading of colours in art objects, but also for research in art-history and for authentication issues: characterisation with analytical instrumentation, combined with known usage history of a SOP, allows post-quem dating, a date before which the art object studied cannot have been made.

A number of research groups are working on different aspects of documenting SOPs, but the results of their research are scattered and some research is unnecessarily being repeated. Since late 2014 a group of European researchers working on SOPs and authentication form an informal SOP expert workgroup, who met in Munich, Dresden and Brussels. SOPRANO deepens the existing informal SOP workgroup and provides sustainability to it.

The expert network assembles researchers from different disciplines and working on various aspects of SOP documentation. The partners belong to the most prominent European heritage science institutions.


Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK-IRPA), Brussels

Dr. Wim Fremout (coordinator of SOPRANO) and dr. Steven Saverwyns (head of the Paintings laboratory) have a large experience in post-quem dating of modern and contemporary paintings. Together they have compiled a large collection of SOPs that was analysed with Raman, FTIR and PyGCMS. Fremout created a web platform to view, document and share spectral data online and has experience with database and website development.
Doerner Institut

Doerner Institut (Bavarian State Painting Collections), Munich

PD Dr. Heike Stege (head of Scientific department) and her team have broad experience in pigment analyses, source research on SOPs, art-technological studies and authentication of modern paintings. The laboratory applies Raman, SERS, FTIR, XRF and PyGCMS for SOP identification. The institute holds a large collection of SOPs, colour charts and artists’ atelier realia.

Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands (RCE), Amsterdam

Prof. dr. Klaas Jan van den Berg is in charge of paintings research and works with many colleagues at RCE’s Cultural Heritage Laboratory and the University on several aspects of SOPs in works of art, neat pigments and SOP containing paints, plastics and inks present in RCE’s historical materials collection. The RCE currently carries out collaborative research projects on the detection and degradation of SOPs. Also historical pigment and paint manufacture is carried out through archival research in collaboration with Royal Talens, For this, Raman, SERS, FTIR, XRF, EDX, (LC)ESIMS and PyGCMS are employed.

Hochschule der Künste Bern (HKB), Bern

Dr. Nadim C. Scherrer (head of the HKB laboratory) and dr. Stefan Zumbuehl have extensive experience in pigment analysis and research relating to artwork characterisation and authentication questions. Many different aspects in art technology related to historic and modern pigment, paint and varnish materials have been researched. The team cooperates with SIK-ISEA and serves as an analytical partner for several museums and projects.
HfBK Dresden

Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden (HfBK Dresden)

HfBK is running a laboratory for analysis of works of art. Since a few years prof. dr. Christoph Herm and dr. Thomas Prestel have concentrated on analysis of SOPs on works of art and scientific objects besides investigating their light fastness using micro-fading-technology (MFT).

Art Discovery, London / New York

Art Discovery (previously Art Analysis & Research) routinely analyses artworks with SOPs, using Raman, FTIR and PyGCMS. Dr. Jilleen Nadolny (Principal Investigator) is a technical art historian who has extensive experience in the study of historical pigments and has been involved in a number of projects, notably the ICOM Art Technological Source Research group. Art Discovery has access to the historical Pigmentum Collection, which has major holdings of SOPs.


Wim Fremout

Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK/IRPA)
Paintings Laboratory
Jubelpark 1
1000 Brussels
Belgium (unhide)
 +32 2 739 68 46


Available libraries

SOP Spectral Library

An exhaustive collection of Raman spectra obtained on synthetic organic pigments