1National Observatory of Athens, Greece
2Academy of Athens, Greece
3National Meteorological Service, Greece
4Laboratory of Atmospheric Physics, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece
5Department of Architecture, National Technical University of Athens, Greece
Abstract. Paintings created by famous artists, representing sunsets throughout the period 1500–1900, provide proxy information on the aerosol optical depth following major volcanic eruptions. This is supported by a statistically significant correlation coefficient (0.8) between the measured red-to-green ratios of 327 paintings and the corresponding values of the dust veil index. A radiative transfer model was used to compile an independent time series of aerosol optical depth at 550 nm corresponding to Northern Hemisphere middle latitudes during the period 1500–1900. The estimated aerosol optical depths range from 0.05 for background aerosol conditions, to about 0.6 following the Tambora and Krakatau eruptions and cover a time period mostly outside of the instrumentation era.