World’s Rarest Colors, Some Of Which Were Made With Now-Extinct Ingredients



189 grams of ‘Byaku Gunjo’; Straus Center for Conservation. Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission

Published by Atelier Éditions, the book, An Atlas of Rare and Familiar Colour, showcases a fascinating apothecary of rare, spellbinding colors from the Harvard Art Museums.

The collective of museums comprises the Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, and Arthur M. Sackler Museum. The collection began in the early 20th century, when the former director of the Fogg Museum first gathered vials of pigments to prolong the life spans of old Italian artworks. It has since amassed to contain 2,500 of the world’s rarest colors.

The book explores the beginnings of some of these hues, including the now-extinct ingredients and methods used to form their makeups.

One striking color is the watercolor Indian yellow, which was packaged in balls “the size of golf balls” and created with the urine of cows or buffaloes that were bred on mango leaf diets. Apparently, it “smelled of heat and dust and sweat and flowers.”

Have a look at some pigment samples found in the pages of An Atlas of Rare and Familiar Colour, which has just been back-ordered. You can purchase a copy of the book in paperback and hardcover versions



Gold leaf powder from Baer Brothers, USA; Straus Center for Conservation (n.d.). Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission



Ball of ‘Raw Indian Yellow’ from Charles Robinson & Co., United Kingdom; Straus Center for Conservation (year 1914). Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission



Malachite (polished). Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission



‘Dragon’s Blood’ in native reed. Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission



‘Madder Lake’ from Fezandie & Sperrie Inc, USA; Straus Center for Conservation (year 1936). Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission



‘Burnt Siena’ from Spain; Straus Center for Conservation (year 1933). Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission



‘Toluidine Toner 16 T 01’ from Ansbacher-Siegle Corp., USA; Straus Center for Conservation (n.d.). Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission



‘Kidney Haematite’; Straus Center for Conservation. Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission



‘Egyptian Blue’’; Straus Center for Conservation. Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission



Modern Persian ‘Sirini’ Scarlet (Vermilion) pigment made from red lead in Russia and collected in Isfahan, Iran; Straus Center for Conservation (year 1935). Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission



Black made from calcined pig bones; Straus Center for Conservation (1933). Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission

[via Ignant, images by Pascale Georgiev for Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission]

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