The colourful story of an American locomotive that ended up on Exmoor and my work on uncovering it can be read HERE

The colourful story of an American locomotive that ended up on Exmoor and my work on uncovering it can be read HERE

Mummy - a 19th century pigment prepared from the ground up remains of Egyptian mummies. You can still see the ‘bits’ in my sample.
It sits alongside a rare sample of Field’s Orange Vermilion and an early example of Alizarin Green.
Although primarily concerned with the analysis of decorative schemes in buildings, the world of paint analysis requires an understanding of pigments and media in the fine arts too.
It also means collecting samples of some very rare and obscure artefacts!
Susan Bennett, a colleague, has sent me the following poem by amateur poet George Keate on Angelica Kauffmann’s use of mummy powder ‘On the Use  of Ground-up Mummies as a Pigment called Mummy Powder’ ‘Tis thus, Angelica, to raise Your Fame, the East its tribute pays! Resigns its Dead to your Command, And claims fresh glory from your hand. Your Art for Ages shall insure What Pyramids could not secure! The scattered Reliques they inshrined To Your enlivening Touch consigned Shall in far happier Forms appear And new Existence seem to wear From You Repute and Power derive, And Egypt’s Kings once more revive.’

Mummy - a 19th century pigment prepared from the ground up remains of Egyptian mummies. You can still see the ‘bits’ in my sample.

It sits alongside a rare sample of Field’s Orange Vermilion and an early example of Alizarin Green.

Although primarily concerned with the analysis of decorative schemes in buildings, the world of paint analysis requires an understanding of pigments and media in the fine arts too.

It also means collecting samples of some very rare and obscure artefacts!

Susan Bennett, a colleague, has sent me the following poem by amateur poet George Keate on Angelica Kauffmann’s use of mummy powder ‘On the Use of Ground-up Mummies as a Pigment called Mummy Powder’

‘Tis thus, Angelica, to raise
Your Fame, the East its tribute pays!
Resigns its Dead to your Command,
And claims fresh glory from your hand.

Your Art for Ages shall insure
What Pyramids could not secure!
The scattered Reliques they inshrined
To Your enlivening Touch consigned

Shall in far happier Forms appear
And new Existence seem to wear
From You Repute and Power derive,
And Egypt’s Kings once more revive.’

“I have made this helmet with my own hands in the shape of a fish’s head, covering it with the skin of a seal. To make it more terrible I have put on it the horns of a bull and I have given it a boar’s jaws; I have hung from it a horse’s tail dyed vermilion.”
Anatole France.  Penguin Island.
“Her cheeks were of the oval kind; and in her right she had a dimple, which the least smile discovered. Her chin had certainly its share in forming the beauty of her face; but it was difficult to say it was either large or small, though perhaps it was rather of the former kind. Her complexion had rather more of the lily than of the rose; but when exercise or modesty increased her natural colour, no vermilion could equal it.”
Henry Fielding.  Tom Jones.
“The young man smiled,- whether in resignation or contempt, it would have been difficult to tell. “Look!” said he; “I have in that Japanese vase two roses gathered yesterday evening in the bud from the governor’s garden. This morning they have blown and spread their vermilion chalices beneath my gaze; with every opening petal they unfold the treasures of their perfume, filling my chamber with fragrance. Look now on these two roses; even among roses these are beautiful, and the rose is the most beautiful of flowers. Why, then, do you bid me desire other flowers when I possess the loveliest of all?””
Alexandre Dumas.  The Man in the Iron Mask.

Order: NEUROPTERA.- Little need here be said, except as to colour. In the Ephemeridae the sexes often differ slightly in their obscure tints; but it is not probable that the males are thus rendered attractive to the females. The Libellulidae, or dragon-flies, are ornamented with splendid green, blue, yellow, and vermilion metallic tints; and the sexes often differ.

Thus, as Prof. Westwood remarks, the males of some of the Agrionidae, “are of a rich blue with black wings, whilst the females are fine green with colourless wings.” But in Agrion ramburii these colours are exactly reversed in the two sexes. In the extensive N. American genus of Hetaerina, the males alone have a beautiful carmine spot at the base of each wing. In Anax junius the basal part of the abdomen in the male is a vivid ultramarine blue, and in the female grass-green.

In all the cases hitherto given the male is more strongly or brighter coloured than the female, and differs from the young of both sexes. But as with some few birds it is the female which is brighter coloured than the male, so with the rhesus monkey (Macacus rhesus), the female has a large surface of naked skin round the tail, of a brilliant carmine red, which, as I was assured by the keepers in the Zoological Gardens, periodically becomes even yet more vivid, and her face also is pale red.

Mr. Trimen has given me a description of a S. African moth (Gynanisa isis), allied to our emperor moth, in which a magnificent ocellus occupies nearly the whole surface of each hinder wing; it consists of a black centre, including a semi-transparent crescent-shaped mark, surrounded by successive, ochre-yellow, black, ochre-yellow, pink, white, pink, brown, and whitish zones.

Having made these preliminary remarks on the admiration felt by savages for various ornaments, and for deformities most unsightly in our eyes, let us see how far the men are attracted by the appearance of their women, and what are their ideas of beauty. I have heard it maintained that savages are quite indifferent about the beauty of their women, valuing them solely as slaves; it may therefore be well to observe that this conclusion does not at all agree with the care which the women take in ornamenting themselves, or with their vanity. Burchell gives an amusing account of a bush-woman who used as much grease, red ochre, and shining powder “as would have ruined any but a very rich husband.” She displayed also “much vanity and too evident a consciousness of her superiority

Charles Darwin.  Descent of Man.
“The Master said, “I hate the manner in which purple takes away the lustre of vermilion. I hate the way in which the songs of Chang confound the music of the Ya. I hate those who with their sharp mouths overthrow kingdoms and families.””
Confucius.  Analects.

"Sir Knight," replied the trader, "I entreat your worship in the name of this present company of princes, that, to save us from charging our consciences with the confession of a thing we have never seen or heard of, and one moreover so much to the prejudice of the Empresses and Queens of the Alcarria and Estremadura, your worship will be pleased to show us some portrait of this lady, though it be no bigger than a grain of wheat; for by the thread one gets at the ball, and in this way we shall be satisfied and easy, and you will be content and pleased; nay, I believe we are already so far agreed with you that even though her portrait should show her blind of one eye, and distilling vermilion and sulphur from the other, we would nevertheless, to gratify your worship, say all in her favour that you desire."

"Your worship," replied Sancho, "had better mark it with ruddle, like the inscriptions on the walls of class rooms, that those who see it may see it plain."

"Adjured in that way," replied the duenna, "I cannot help answering the question and telling the whole truth. Senor Don Quixote, have you observed the comeliness of my lady the duchess, that smooth complexion of hers like a burnished polished sword, those two cheeks of milk and carmine, that gay lively step with which she treads or rather seems to spurn the earth, so that one would fancy she went radiating health wherever she passed?

He says, therefore, that on the model of another head, the work of an image maker, which he had seen at Madrid, Don Antonio made this one at home for his own amusement and to astonish ignorant people; and its mechanism was as follows. The table was of wood painted and varnished to imitate jasper, and the pedestal on which it stood was of the same material, with four eagles’ claws projecting from it to support the weight more steadily.

They quartered him in a room on the ground floor, where in place of leather hangings there were pieces of painted serge such as they commonly use in villages. On one of them was painted by some very poor hand the Rape of Helen, when the bold guest carried her off from Menelaus, and on the other was the story of Dido and Aeneas, she on a high tower, as though she were making signals with a half sheet to her fugitive guest who was out at sea flying in a frigate or brigantine.

Miguel de Cervantes.  Don Quixote.

This note was written upon gilt-edged paper
With a neat little crow-quill, slight and new:
Her small white hand could hardly reach the taper,
It trembled as magnetic needles do,
And yet she did not let one tear escape her;
The seal a sun-flower; ‘Elle vous suit partout,’
The motto cut upon a white cornelian;
The wax was superfine, its hue vermilion.

The airy child of vapour and the sun,
Brought forth in purple, cradled in vermilion,
Baptized in molten gold, and swathed in dun,
Glittering like crescents o’er a Turk’s pavilion,
And blending every colour into one,
Just like a black eye in a recent scuffle
(For sometimes we must box without the muffle).

Or like an opiate, which brings troubled rest,
Or none; or like- like nothing that I know
Except itself;- such is the human breast;
A thing, of which similitudes can show
No real likeness,- like the old Tyrian vest
Dyed purple, none at present can tell how,
If from a shell-fish or from cochineal.
So perish every tyrant’s robe piece-meal!

Lord Byron.  Don Juan.
“Rinaldo, who saw Isolier fall, and thought that his life was reft, darted towards the horse, and, with his fist, gave him such a blow on the jaws that the blood tinged his mouth with vermilion. Quicker than an arrow leaves the bow the horse turned upon him, and tried to seize his arm with his teeth.”
Thomas Bulfinch.  Legends of Charlemagne.
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