I m so fond of color –
I absolutely love mixing colours, getting my hands dirty and making new colour hues as I have imagined.
Making a research to find how colors are made and what is the natural ingredients they have been used since antiquity, was something I wanted to do for a long time.
I thought it would take me only one blog post to cover the subject, but I have found so interesting things and information that the six colour became three and then I decided to give each colour a special date and to keep my eyes only on to one each time.
So Come along…
First date : RED
Red pigment is one of the basics that people have discovered .
They have found large bones and shoulders of animals that have been used to turn minerals into dust.
In order to make pigment they added water, animal fat, juices from vegetables, urine, blood or bone marrow.
In Ancient Egypt, they made the Reds from OXIZED IRON and RED OCHRE
It was associated with life, health, and victory. Egyptians would color themselves with red ochre during celebrations.
Egyptian women used red ochre as a cosmetic to redden cheeks and lips and also used henna to color their hair and paint their nails.
But, like many colors, it also had a negative association, with heat, destruction and evil.
A prayer to god Isis states: “Oh Isis, protect me from all things evil and red.”
The ancient Egyptians began manufacturing pigments in about 4000 BC.
Red ochre was widely used as a pigment for wall paintings, particularly as the skin color of men.
Ancient Greek world used to produce Red colors by using the MINERAL HEMATITES.
When it is pulverized it is a red powder.
The best quality in ancient times were the Persian and the Spanish hematites.
It is believed that the red color used in the palace of Knossos, Crete, Greece, during the Minoan period (2600–1100 BC) was mainly Persian hematitis.
Greeks and Romans depending on the way they used to produce the dye for their clothing, and not just the material of a dress, could suggest a social status in the ancient world.
Different shades of purple or red were reserved for the nobles as their manufacturing was an expensive process (from SEA SNAIL ‘S SECRETION !)
The lower classes could afford something plainer, like ochre or brown.
In Pompei they found frescos painted with Red pigment which this Red was actually burnt sienna from Tuscany.
The pigment is from iron oxide at 50% and varied amounts of clay and quartz.
They believed to be yellow at the beggining and when gases from Vesuvius reacted with yellow paint, they created this red, as research reveal.
Red was also an important color in ancient China, where it was used to colour early pottery and later the gates and walls of palaces.
During the Han dynasty (200 BC–200 AD) Chinese craftsmen made a red pigment, lead tetroxide,by heating lead white pigment.
Chinese red was a light red, but during the Tang dynasty new dyes and pigments were discovered.
The Chinese used several different plants to make red dyes, including the flowers of the safflour, the thorns and stems of a variety of sorghum plant called Kao-liang, and the wood of the sappanwood tree.
For pigments, they used cinnabar (Ancient greek word : κιννάβαρι), which produced the famous vermillion or “Chinese red” .
Brazilin was another popular red dye in the Middle Ages.
It came from the sapanwood tree, which grew in India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka.
A similar tree, brazilwood, grew on the coast of South America
The red wood was ground into sawdust and mixed with an alkaline solution to make dye and pigment.
It became one of the most profitable exports from the New World, and gave its name to the nation of Brazil.
In the Renaissance, the brilliant red costumes for the nobility and wealthy were dyed with kermes (insects that are natives to the Mediterranean and live on the sap of the kermes Oak)
During the Renaissance trade routes were opened to the New World, to Asia and the Middle East, and new varieties of red pigment and dye were imported into Europe.
Those imports usually were through Venice, Genoa or Seville, and Marseille.
Venice was the major depot importing and manufacturing pigments for artists and dyers from the end of the 15th century- the catalog of a Venetian Vendecolori, or pigment seller, from 1534 included vermilion and kermes.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, the most famous red pigment came from a cochineal insect.
This creature lived on prickly-pear cacti in Mexico.
These white bugs produced a potent red dye so beloved by artists and patrons, that it quickly became
the third greatest import out of the “New World” (after gold and silver)!
as explains Victoria Finlay in A Brilliant History of Color in Art.
From this bug (cochineal) and the Kermes insect they used to combine and make the famous Carmine Red. .
Peter Paul Rubbens – Samson and Delidah (1609) Carmine red was used in this painting.
As a non-toxic source for red pigment, the cochineal bug is still used to color lipsticks and blush today!!!
(Did you know that every time you put on your lipstick,you might kiss with a bunch of these little white (from the outside) bugs?)
Only the names of the Red pigments among the ages, are like a magic journey to me.
I pronounce their names and feels like throwing magic spells, or is it only me that feels this way?
Read with me: Red Ochre, Madder lake, Carmine, Red Lead, Dragon’s Blood, Vermilion, Cadmium Red …
and you can make the actual journey here with the timeline of Red Colour that I found in ColourLex.com
Next date, colour Blue!
About Colors and Pigments educational material at colourLex
About Red colors in History and Art in hisour.com
About ancient Greeks and Romans
On minerals and stones you can find more here
I was really inspired about colour origination from this article