Harvard has a pigment library that
stores old pigment sources, like the
ground shells of now-extinct insects,
poisonous metals, and wrappings from
Egyptian mummies, to preserve the
origins of the world’s rarest colors.
A few centuries ago, finding a specific color might have meant trekking across the globe to a mineral deposit in the middle of Afghanistan. “Every pigment has its own story,” Narayan Khandekar, the caretaker of the pigment collection, told Fastcodesign. He also shared the stories of some of the most interesting pigments in the collection.
“People would harvest mummies from Egypt and then extract the brown resin material that was on the wrappings around the bodies and turn that into a pigment. It’s a very bizarre kind of pigment, I’ve got to say, but it was very popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.”
“Cadmium yellow was introduced in the mid 19th century. It’s a bright yellow that many impressionists used. Cadmium is a heavy metal, very toxic. In the early 20th century, cadmium red was introduced. You find these pigments used in industrial processes. Up until the 1970s, Lego bricks had cadmium pigment in them.”
Annatto“The lipstick plant—a small tree, Bixa orellana, native to Central and South America—produces annatto, a natural orange dye. Seeds from the plant are contained in a pod surrounded with a bright red pulp. Currently, annatto is used to color butter, cheese, and cosmetics.”
Lapis Lazuli“People would mine it in Afghanistan, ship it across Europe, and it was more expensive than gold so it would have its own budget line on a commission.”
Dragon’s Blood“It has a great name, but it’s not from dragons. [The bright red pigment] is from the rattan palm.”
Cochineal“This red dye comes from squashed beetles, and it’s used in cosmetics and food.”
Emerald Green “This is made from copper acetoarsenite. We had a Van Gogh with a bright green background that was identified as emerald green. Pigments used for artists’ purposes can find their way into use in other areas as well. Emerald green was used as an insecticide, and you often see it on older wood that would be put into the ground, like railroad ties.”
This is pure alchemy. I love it!
If you know how much I love colors you know how much I’m freaking out right now. I WANT TO BE THERE
found @ 35 likes ON 2019-02-27 16:31:38 BY ME.ME