Hardest colours to find in the past.
There are many colours in our world: some of them can be perceived by the human eyes and some of them are visible only to certain species of animals. However colours are always needed to paint objects, pieces of art, walls and so on. That’s why hues have to be produced artificially and we now have access to so many different shades that entire books wouldn’t be enought to contain them all.
However, in the past it was a lot more difficult finding certain specific hues and you literally had to travel to far away lands or harvest them from rare objects. The biggest collection of pigments and colours is the Forbes Pigment Collections, with more than 2500 different hues that were used for arts and crafts centuries ago. This precious collection now includes modern pigments too, but it still remains a remarkable example of how long and difficult it was to aquire every shade possible.
Some of the most difficult to find colours in the past included:
- Lapis Lazuli:This colours had to be harvested directly for the precious stone that gives it its name and it costed more than gold.
- Mummy brown: This specific hue had to extracted from real mummies. It started as an organic resin and it had to be made into a pigment.
- Cadmium Yellow: Cadmium yellow was extracted from Cadmium, which still is a very toxic metal. We now have access to Cadmium red too.
- Cochineal: This was a rare red pigment harvested from beetles and it required a rather difficult procedure.
- Brazilwood: A rare to find brownish pigment who was taken directly out of tropical trees.
All of these colours were very hard and expensive to find and buy. Artists nowadays should be relieved that it is so much easier to use many different shades.