How many poisonous paints do you count in this ancient fresco?
I count at least three, white lead, orpiment / realgar for the yellows, and cinnabar (the ultra-bright Pompeiian red). I'm happy to say that I've recently obtained all of these grey market, semi-illicit and authentic ingredients for the next fresco project from a great US vendor. Maybe modern colors are technically better, but if you are going to recreate something,why do it half-way?
I was thinking of doing this very image, except maybe including a small 'Where's Waldo' (small to make it challenging for the viewer, with poisonous cinnabar and white lead stripes on his shirt of course).
The cinnabar (mercuric sulfide) is a wonderful warm shade of red, although I'm not sure if it is prepared exactly as research indicates the ancients did. The Chinese also used cinnabar back in the day, but it was usually on that red furniture and boxes. They loved themselves some red boxes.
White lead powder is fairly nasty stuff even though it looks authentic on fresco because the powders are ground down with the water before applying, which gives rise to lead dust inhalation.
And, we all know what happened to cousin Vinnie Van Gogh who used to lick the tips of his brushes containing lead paint to point them. By the way, here is an evening photo I took in Arles of the outside of the real Cafe de Nuit. It had nothing to do with coffee or squirrels, so I was mildly disappointed. But, I tried to get the same vantage point and lighting conditions of one of his paintings.
Realgar/Orpiment is basically arsenic (rat poison), but in pure crystaline form. It creates themost wonderful deep orange and yellow warm hues. I also received some actual crystals of this from a Chinese supplier, so I can't wait to grind them down and see what kind of colorific magic will happen.
There are other poisonous and difficult to find paints of course, but these are my favorite old style ones. Which is your favorite?
Some Like it Hot
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