I Know What You’re Thinking
Who is this gorgeous woman?
And then perhaps you thought this was painted by Francesco Clemente.
Nope, the painting above was actually what was in a sarcophagus on a mummy to create a portrait of the person who had died. These same kinds of mummies were later sold in a black market trade and burnt so that their ashes could be used to make so-called “Mummy Brown”.
(Here is an actual Francesco Clemente.)
There were many strange things used to make color, from Sepia (originally from the ink sack of a cuddle fish), Carmine (the blood a squashed bug), to Indian Yellow (made from the urine cows fed mango and turmeric). Not only were the practices rather gnarly, but also natural organic pigments tend to be fugitive, meaning they lose their color over time. Fortunately for us, synthetic versions have been recreated in a lab, even though they often still bear the same name as the original that you see in the art store.
The rich history of organic pigments, its transformation from natural to synthetic today, plays a huge role in my book and can transform the way you think about your materials.
Does this subject fascinate you? If so click here if you would be interested in learning about when I teach workshops.