Caput Mortum

“Interior of a Kitchen”

Martin Drolling, 1815, Louvre, Paris

The Latin scholars amongst us will translate the title of this post to be Dead Man’s Head. This paint colour had another name – Mummy Brown. The pigment Mummy Brown, emerged in the 16th Century, as a blend of white pitch, our old friend Myrrh and ground up Egyptian Mummy remains. As a paint it had excellent transparency – good for shading and ironically, skin tones. The high content of fat and ammonia lead to early cracking of the paint, a characteristic very popular with art forgers. True Mummy Brown was last produced in London, probably until 1915, when they ran out of cheap Mummies. The colour is still available, however the modern version is a mixture of kaolin, quartz, goethe and hematite. The image shown above is considered the most significant painting which employs Mummy Brown as the dominant pigment. #afewofmyfavouritethings #letsmakelemonade

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