Nine unusual historical facts about colour
Genuine Indian Yellow was originally manufatured in India and made from concentrated cows urine. This was mixed with mud and sent to London to be refined. The resulting paint was valued for it’s hue and transparency, even though it was not very stable.
Orange was used by the early Egyptians and was probably made by using earth colours. Realgar which is an arsenic based orange, this was available up until the late 19th century, it was highly poisenous.
During the middle ages a variety of red dyes were produced from resins, crushed beetles and woods. The rock Cinnabar was the frist red of antiquity. This was produced from a hard red rock varying from a liver colour to a scarlet. It was the only bright red of the ancient world.
The first unmixed violet was Tyrian Purple. This was a clear reddish violet which was in use until about the 10th century. It was made from a certain whelk. This was a clear substance and was extracted from a gland in the whelks body. On exposure to light this became a bright violet. Vast numbers were required. It takes over 12000 whelks to produce under 1,5 grams of dye.
Egyptian Blue Frit was probably the first artificial pigment ever produced. Used by the early Egyptians from about 3000 BC it was made from especially manufactured blue glass. Genuine Ultramarine was produced from the semi precious stone Lapis Lasuli and was very expensive.
Emerald Green was very poisonous and responsable for many deaths, this has now been replaced with modern day alternatives. Sap green was produced from berries, roots and tree bark, it was and still is relatively fugative.
The most strange of all brown pigments must surely be mummy. This was produced from ground up Egyptian mummies. Even stranger is the fact that it was used as a medicine before it was discovered that paint could be made from it.
The first paint ever used was almost certainly soot, either rubbed directly on to a surface or mixed with a binder such as animal fat or blood.
Chalk, among other things, has been used since the cave painter. Used in either lump form or ground for use as a coarse paint. Oyster shells, burnt and crushed into a fine powder provided a white of great importance to early Japanese painting.