Cholesterol (1) constitutes approximately 5% of the lipid fraction of eggs. The compound is therefore abundant in fresh egg tempera paints. The fate of cholesterol upon light ageing of egg tempera paint bindingmediumwas investigated by direct temperature resolved mass spectrometry (DTMS) and tandem mass spectrometry (DTMSMS). Cholesterol oxidation products (COPs) such as 5,6-epoxycholestan-3-ol (2) and 3-hydroxycholest-5-en-7-one (3) were positively identified in light-aged egg binding medium. Given the fast rate of oxidation of cholesterol, the corresponding oxidation products are better markers for egg tempera than the cholesterol molecule itself. Cholesterol and COPs were discovered in paints on German baroque altar pieces from the 16th and 18th C and in a 20th C glaze on a Mark Rothko Seagram Mural painting at Tate by DTMS fingerprinting analysis of paint microsamples.

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Journal Int. J. Mass Spectrom.
van den Brink, O.F, Ferreira, E.S.B, van der Horst, J, & Boon, J.J. (2009). A direct temperature-resolved tandem mass spectrometry study of cholesterol oxidation products in light-aged egg tempera paints with examples from works of art. Int. J. Mass Spectrom., 284, 12–21. doi:10.1016/j.ijms.2008.11.005