I always wanted to do a research and find out how the pigments of the colours were made through history. I am sharing here this research and after covering the Red colour in the previous post here is the most interesting things I have found out about the origination of “blue colours”.
Resources for the post were mainly Wikipedia, ColourLex.com, Artsy.net and there are links for those who would like further information.
So come along to share the “blue” stories:
Blue pigments were made from minerals, especially lapis lazuliand azurite.
Today, azurite is found in Australia, southwest United States, Mexico, Morocco, and Zaire.
These minerals were crushed, ground into powder, and then mixed with a quick-drying binding agent, such as egg yolk (tempera painting). When used for oil painting were mixed with a slow-drying oil, such as linseed oil.
In Ancient Egypt, Blue was one of the most popular colors.
Commonly referred as “Egyptian Blue,” made from COOPER and IRON OXIDES with SILICA and CALCIUM. Blue in Egypt symbolised fertility, birth, rebirth and life.
Egyptian blue (calcium copper silicate) is believed to have been discovered accidentally (3000B.C.). During experimental trials they were looking to replace the rare and expensive lapis lazuli.
Egyptian glassmakers tried to color the glass blue with copper salts.
From this, it was created the unique blue dye that archaeologists found in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Crete, and Santorini.
Natural dyes to colour cloth and tapestries were made from plants.
During the Middle Ages
As read in Wikipedia, in the art and life of Europe during the early Middle Ages, blue as a colour had no important role.
The nobility wore purple or red, while only the poor wore blue clothing, coloured with poor-quality dyes made from the woad plant.
Blue played no significant role in the costumes of the wealthy people, the priests or the decoration of churches.
The church became the marvel of the Christian world, and the colour became known as the “bleu de Saint-Denis”.
From the mineral lapis lazuli, it was received the ultramarine blue.
Lapis Lazuli was present only in Persia.
First noted use of lapis lazuli as a pigment can be seen in the 6th and 7th-century AD cave paintings in Afghanistani Zoroastrian. Also in Buddhist temples, near the most famous source of the mineral.
Lapis lazuli has also been identified in Chinese paintings from the 10th and 11th centuries.
Ultramarine is a deep blue color and a pigment which was originally made by grinding lapis lazuli into a powder.
Organic Ultramarine has been used for the last 6,000 years from when they first began mining its base mineral, lapis lazuli.
The name comes from the Latin ultramarinus, literally “beyond the sea”.
That because the pigment was imported into Europe from mines in Afghanistan. Italian traders during the 14th and 15th centuries were bringing Lapis into Europe.
Ever since the Medieval era, painters have painted the Virgin Mary in a bright blue robe. The colour was choosen not for its religious symbolism, but rather for its tremendous price tag.
The high price of the pigment, sourced in Afghanistan, meant that its use was appropriate for such a noble subject such as the mother of Christ.
During the Renaissance, ultramarine was the finest and most expensive blue that could be used by painters.
Natural ultramarine is the most difficult pigment to grind by hand.
European artists used the pigment slightly, reserving their highest quality blues, as it has been said, for the robes of Mary and the Christ child.
This precious material achieved global popularity, adorning Egyptian funerary portraits,
Iranian Qur’ans (Korans),
and later the headdress in Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring (1665).
As a result of the high price, artists sometimes were conserved by using a cheaper blue, azurite, for under painting.
Due to a shortage of azurite in the late 16th – 17th century the price for the already-expensive ultramarine increased .
For hundreds of years, the cost of lapis lazuli competed even the price of gold.
Synthetic ultramarine has been made since the 19th century (it was discovered in 1828).
Another famous blue is the Cobalt blue, which is a mixed oxide of cobalt and aluminum.
As a colour is very stable and as a pigment is practically unaffected by light. Cobalt blue is toxic when inhaled or consumed!
A paintings made with the use of the cobalt blue pigment is the famous painting of Renoir, the Umbrellas.
The pigment analysis of the painting confirms that the painting was made in two stages.
The blue of the dresses on the right were made with cobalt blue. But the woman on the right was made in about 1885.
Other famous blues are :
Prussian blue is the oldest modern synthetic pigment which has been in use since its discovery in 1704 until the present day.
Cerulean blue which can be prepared by heating a mixture of cobalt-chloride and potassium stannate.
Indigo is an organic compound of very dark blue colour.
The YinMn blue was first synthesized in 2009 at the University of Oregon and patented in 2012. It is now commercially available as an artists’ pigment.
I guess chemistry takes the hand and moves forward in the pigments of tomorrow. This synthetic pigment (YinMn) is exceedingly stable and lightfast.
The YInMn blue has high reflectivity of the IR region of the solar spectrum. Surfaces painted with this pigment remain cooler than other surfaces. Thus helping to reduce cooling costs.
You can find a magnificent time line of Blue Colour at the site of ColorLex.com here.