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Tyrian Purple - The Royal Pigment in oils

September 11th, 2019

Tyrian Purple - The Royal Pigment in oils

There is only one color more expensive and difficult to extract than that of genuine Lapis Lazuli, and that is Tyrian Purple (6,6′-dibromoindigo). Tyrian Purple is a red leaning violet color in the form of a dye which is extracted from the regional snail Bolinus brandaris found in the eastern Mediterranean sea. It takes the secretion of roughly 10,000 of these sea snails to produce just 1 gram of colored pigment, hence the high costs of this color historically and in the present day. Tyrian Purple also goes by the names “Imperial Purple” and “Royal Purple” which goes back to the original usage of this color. Originally Tyrian Purple was used as a dye for the clothing of royalty. Both the colors blue and purple [also saturated colors in general] were a rarity until the 1800’s. Often times to get a purple/ violet color a blue had to be mixed with a red ochre or a cinnabar/ vermilion to approximate a hue. 


Generally speaking the color Tyrian Purple is a dye as opposed to a pigment. While dyes and pigments can theoretically be used for the same purposes dyes tend to be less lightfast than pigments and better suited to staining things, rather than being used to paint with. A dye essentially dissolves into its binder, whereas a pigment is always a separate entity from its vehicle and is prone to separation. In this research blog entry, I am going to be exploring Tyrian Purple used within oil painting as a pigment would be used. There isn't much information regarding Tyrian Purple's use within oil painting, so I took it upon myself to run it through some tests and even use it in a final painting that conceptually and aesthetically highlights Tyrian Purple as a color!


I am going to show some examples of the usage of Tyrian Purple as a dye for clothing 


Byzantine robe, 11th century 


Burial Shroud for Emperor Charlemagne, 814


Like the color blue, purple/ violet was a color very difficult to obtain and most often reserved for royalty- sometimes by law. These fabric examples display Tyrian Purple being used for its primary use as a dye for clothing. As I have stated above Tyrian Purple is first and foremost a dye, which means that its historical application within oil painting will inevitably be limited, similar to other dyes occasionally used for painting. For this reason, I have taken it upon myself to test how Tyrian Purple behaves when bound in walnut oil as a vehicle. Similarly to my research on Emerald Green and Mummy Brown, I will be running Tyrian Purple though tests that test its lightfastness when exposed to 3 months of sunlight, reactivity to sulfur [mixed with cadmium yellow], permanency, and transparency. Just like with Emerald Green and Mumy Brown I will be taking a hue and a color that is similar in its physical makeup and run it through the same tests. The hue color will be "Dioxazine Purple", which is generally one of the most reliable and "go-to" options when a single pigment violet color is wanted. The similar color in makeup will be a genuine Indigo, which is also a dye. The Indigo that I am using is bound in linseed oil by a company called "Natural Pigments" with their oil paint line "Rublev". This indigo is labeled as "Maya Blue" because the indigo dye is on a base of palygorskite clay, this factor could produce different results than plain indigo might produce- this one is perhaps more stable. 



Here is my sample of Tyrian Purple that I acquired through Kremer Pigments. While Tyrian Purple is commercially readily available, it is only for those who can afford it. This small sample of Tyrian Purple that I have cost me $107 USD + shipping. This hefty sum for a mere 25mg of powder. Tyrian Purple is easily the most expensive pigment in the world, Vantablack may be up there as well if it were ever commercially available. Tyrian Purple easily takes the cake, however. 


Ok, so now that I have given a brief history on how Tyrian Purple is made, what it is, its historical usage, and my outline for what my research will entail- I will now share the results of my research with you.


1st Test- Reactivity



5/9/17 - 8/1/17


Going into this test I suspected that none of the 3 pigments in question would be reactive with sulfur, and I was right. Generally, the only pigments that you can count on being reactive with sulfur bearing pigments are heavy metals such as copper, arsenic, and lead. This test is time based, as I generally give 1-3 months to wait and see if a recation occurs between the pigment in question vs. the sulfur bearing pigment.


CONCLUSION- Not reactive.


2nd Test- Lightfastness



5/9/17 - 8/1/17


This test is always the juiciest and most anticipated test out of all of them, and for good reason. Lightfastness tells us how well the color will hold up over time given exposure to UV light. So what I have found here is that both Dioxazine Purple and Indigo have held up well. This is a time-based test, I usually allow 3 months of direct sun exposure to see how much/ if at all a color will fade or change in appearance. The Indigo here is on a base of palygorskite clay, so this may have influenced its stability here, as indigo is generally less lightfast. Tyrian Purple bound within oil is without a doubt not lightfast. If you look at the "in" sample vs the "out" sample [indoor vs outdoor] the indoor sample has retained some of its color, whereas the sun exposed sample has had its saturation completely obliterated. I had to photograph these test strips personally because my scanner wasn't depicting the differences adequately. 


CONCLUSION- Not lightfast. 


3rd Test- Transparency



With this test here you can see that I have mixed all 3 colors- Dioxazine Purple, Indigo, and Tyrian purple with Lead white and Bone black. I have also taken a small amount of Tyrian Purple and glazed it over lead white. According to the glaze and the mixing with black and white, I would have to say that Tyrian Purple is a weak tinter and is transparent. I am skeptical to see how much the data would differ had I had a larger sample of Tyrian Purple to work form for my testing. I think however that it would still lean on the transparent and weak tinter side. 


CONCLUSION- Transparent? [data is limited]


4th Test- Permanency



LEFT- 5/9/17 [aged almost 3 months]

RIGHT- 8/1/17 [fresh]


As you can see Tyrian Purple itself shifts in hue on its own with out direct exposure to sunlight, for this reason, I cannot call it permanent. It shifts rather quickly as well. Within the course of a few days to a week the color shifts to a warmer, less saturated violet color. Granted the fresh sample of Tyrian contains a little more pigment, it is very obvious that it has lost saturation. 



CONCLUSION- Not permanent.


5th Test- Pigment In Practice



For this test I have employed both genuine Indigo, as well as Tyrian Purple in this painting. The Indigo has mostly been used as a background color in which I painted wet into wet, the Tyrian Purple was used in the pendant that you see on the shirt. The Tyrian Purple has faded since it was painted fresh. 


I have thoroughly enjoyed researching Tyrian Purple, one pigment that I place in a handful of other extraordinary pigments that I am glad that I got to test in the realm of oil painting. Now that I have tested Emerald Green, Mummy Brown [reproduction], and Tyrian Purple I have my eyes on genuine Indian Yellow. Hopefully, this can be a reality!




Watch a brief verbal explanation of my Tyrian Purple findings



I have created an oil paint HUE of Tyrian Purple in linseed oil using a careful blend of both Genuine Indigo and Genuine Alizarin Crimson.

I am using both genuine Indigo as well as genuine Alizarin Crimson to approximate a very close hue of Tyrian Purple. Historically Madder Lake was used in renaissance purple/ violet hues but in the interest of keeping this product cost-available, I have chosen to substitute Madder Lake with its synthetic counterpart Alizarin Crimson. Both are chemically very similar with the primary difference being that Alizarin Crimson is a more concentrated man-made version of Madder lake with fewer impurities causing for a more saturated color.

Other red and blue colors were used to approximate purple/ violet hues in renaissance painting but Indigo and Madder Lake pigments make for the best Tyrian Purple hue in terms both of the appearance of the color itself, as well as how the color handles.This hue of mine is a very close approximation to how the genuine color behaves in oils.

I use no additives! No waxes, fillers, chalks, driers etc. Just pure pigment and oil hand-mulled! Because of this purity and old-school method, some separation between oil and pigment may occur in the tube and this is normal. I aim for this to be minimal.


-Indigo (NB1)

-Alizarin Crimson (PR83)


Linseed Oil


-Toxicity- NON-TOXIC

-Reactivity- Not reactive with sulfur

-Lightfastness- ASTM III

-Transparency/ Tinting strength- Transparent

-Permanency- Permanent

-Drying time- Slow

You can purchase my Tyrian Purple HUE here - Tyrian Purple (HUE)


Mummy Brown - The Fabled Pigment Resurrected

August 18th, 2019

Mummy Brown - The Fabled Pigment Resurrected

After 4 years of complete fascination/ on and off research with the color Mummy Brown I have finally been able to document the genuine color and publish a book on it.

Roughly 200 years ago, artists were painting with the pulverized remains of Egyptian mummies. This color was available in art shops until the mid-20th-century when it disappeared due to laws and scarcity of mummies to make paint from.

The unique opportunity has presented itself for this color to be adequately documented. I reproduce this historical color using Egyptian mummy fragments from the revered Billy Jamieson collection. The fragments that I have obtained are said to have once been housed with Ramses II in the Niagara Falls History Museum, which Jamieson purchased in 1999. The result is the comprehensive never before seen color profile for this fabled color.

Join me in my quest for Mummy Brown!

You can purchase my definitive book on Mummy Brown with this link-

Emerald Green- The Deadly Pigment And Its Handling Characteristics

June 17th, 2019

Emerald Green- The Deadly Pigment And Its Handling Characteristics

PG21- TOXICITY=Extremely Toxic [contains Arsenic and Copper]

REACTIVITY= Highly Reactive to Sulfur

PERMANENCE= Not Permanent. Hue shifts after a few weeks to a month


TRANSPARENCY= Semi-Transparent

I would like to share with you all some research that I have compiled in regards to one of the most infamous pigments in paintings history. This pigment is of course "Emerald Green", also known as "Paris Green", and "Veronese Green", as well as a host of other less commonly used names.This pigment was the breakthrough green pigment of the 1800's, as it was very vivid, and it wasn't a mixture or a hue, it was a single pigment color like nobody had seen by the time it was released. It was first synthesized in Schweinfurt, Germany by two men, Russ and Sattler around the year 1814 in an effort to improve on the chemically similar "Scheele's Green", as this new green was meant to be more stable. Both were incredibly toxic however.

Chemical Composition of "Scheele's Green" - (copper arsenite)

Chemical Composition of "Emerald Green" - (copper(II) acetoarsenite)

Both pigments contained elements of Copper as well as Arsenic, which made them very dangerous if used improperly. Toxic pigments were nothing new in the art world, however- we had been using heavy metal based pigments for 1000's of years at this point, including both copper and arsenic based pigments. In fact, the only white based paint we had until the 1800s and the introduction of Zinc White was "Flake White" (Lead Carbonate). One key difference is that in the 1800's the world was changing vastly and many of the ways people in this time period handled things were very dangerous and flat out strange to us now. They didn't know any better.

Cocaine was part of the Original Coca-Cola beverage, Heroin was essentially a medicine, deadly pigments containing lead, copper, mercury, and arsenic were routinely used in all forms of decoration [oil paint, house paint, clothing dye etc.]. Emerald Green as a dry powder pigment was also used as an insecticide during WW2, as well as a rodenticide in Paris sewers [hence the name Paris Green. If there was ever a time in history to be living on the edge, it was the 1800's. Emerald Green went out of production around the 1960's once it finally became banned to produce and sell. There are still ways to obtain it as a dry pigment, but it can't be commercially sold, and generally has overall been replaced by much safer alternatives, mostly hue combinations of yellow, blue, white, and the Pthalo colors. It is very difficult to come by Emerald Green these days, you can get the dry pigment through hard to find sales via the internet, also you may be so lucky to stumble upon Vintage intact oil paint tubes, like I did.

I stumbled upon these 4 vintage Emerald Green in the spring of 2016 through sources in which I will keep to myself.

The tubes listed are as follows (From Left to Right)

1. Emerald Green- Rowney & Co. - Very Old, likely Early 1900's

2. Emerald Green- Rowney Georgian - 1940's-1950's

3. Emerald Green- Roberson & Co. - Likely the oldest of the bunch, Late 1800's- Early 1900's

4. Emerald Green- Winsor & Newton - 1920-1950 ?

All of the tubes are 60-100+ years old. Pretty cool, I know. I also have an old tube of Carmine oil paint dated at 1889 that id like to test and show off eventually as well.

I have conducted some tests regarding the performing characteristics of Emerald Green. Among these tests are



-Transparency/ Mixing


-Pigment in practice



In this test I have taken 5 genuine vintage Emerald Green oil paints,
1 genuine Malachite oil paint,1 suspect Emerald Green labeled as "Emerald Stone Green" on the tube dated to be from early 1900's, and mixed all 7 tubes with Cadmium Yellow to see if the sulfur content would react with the copper content within these 7 colors. The results tell it all. The 5 genuine Emerald Green's [Copper/ Arsenic based] turned dark green/ blackish. The Malachite didnt seem to be affected by the introduction of a sulfur containing paint. This caused suspicion as to whether it was the copper, or the arsenic in the Emerald Green's harshly reacting with the sulfur in the Cadmium Yellow. Judging by this test I would have to say that it was the Arsenic that was reacting harshly to the sulfur, as the Malachite didnt seem to react [Copper Carbonate] The "Emerald-Stone Green" appeared to not be genuine, very likely a very old hue-imitation of Emerald Green, as it didnt change at all with the introduction of the Cadmium Yellow [Sulfur bearing pigment]

I did some additional studies regarding the reactivity of this pigment.

I mixed a different pigment with Emerald Green that also contains Sulfur, like the cadmium yellow prior.


Blue pigment being used is Ultramarine Blue (A complex sulfur-containing sodium aluminum silicate)

The shift over a one month period of time between Ultramarine Blue and Emerald Green is subtle. I definitely detect a shift in hue, as seen with the cadmium/ emerald mixtures, although not as strong. This could be for a variety of reasons. There could be a lower Sulfur content in Ultramarine Blue vs Cadmium Yellow, and/or it could be the fact that the hue of Emerald Green in oil paint form naturally shifts in hue- which I have found and documented that it does. In this test sample you can see Ultramarine Blue alone, Emerald Green alone, as well as the mixture between the two, and then you can see the changes brought on by a month of waiting. If you look at the small sample of Emerald Green on the right on both pictures you will see that Emerald Green slightly shifted on its own. I have noticed this in all of my Emerald Green samples. It isnt a permanent pigment in the sense that its hue does shift. More on this later.


Left to Right"

"Moss Green- Vintage 1889 French Oil Paint

"Emerald Green hue" - Marie's

"Emerald Green hue" - Old Holland

Genuine Emerald Green- Matuda

This picture samples mostly Emerald Green HUES, as well as one Genuine Emerald Green mixed with Cadmium Yellow. You can easily see the difference between the hues vs the genuine Emerald Green when mixed with the Cadmium Yellow. The Emerald hues dont change after the one month, while the genuine Emerald Green has began to darken drastically, due to presence of Sulfur in the Cadmium Yellow and Copper/ Arsenic in the Emerald Green.

CONCLUSION- Emerald Green is HIGHLY reactive with Sulfur, and will darken upon being exposed to it.


During the summer of 2016 I decided that I was going to study Emerald Green (PG21) with some standard tests to share valuable data with other art history fans. The timing was perfect, as I was able to also document the Lightfastness of Emerald Green via making 2 identical test strips containing 2 different Emerald Green HUES, as well as 2 different Emerald Green GENUINE oil paints- Keeping 1 indoors out of the sun, and the other in a window to capture the full North American sunlight for 3 months. Usually, it is recommended to expose the paint strip to direct sunlight for 1 full year to get the best results, but I figured 3 months in the summer sun should at least bare some acceptable changes in my results.



The color samples used are as follows-

Top- Emerald Green GENUINE - Matuda

Right- Emerald Green HUE - Rowney

Bottom- Emerald Green HUE- Old Holland

Left- Emerald Green GENUINE- Winsor & Newton

You can see from this side by side comparison that there is a subtle difference between the left and the right panel. The right panel all color samples seem to slightly be showing a chalking effect that I believe would be more noticeable had I exposed them for a year, instead of 3 months. I notice no significant differences between the hues and the genuine Emerald Greens.

CONCLUSION- I would say that Emerald Green is Lightfast, meaning that exposure to UV isnt a huge issue in the immediate future of a painting containing Emerald Green, however it isnt ultra-resistant either. It sits in the middle ground level with a rating of II.


Bone Black on the Left

Lead White on the Right

With this test I am trying to figure out just how transparent Emerald Green really is. As you can see in the photographic testing above, I have thinned Emerald Green down and did 4 thin layers over the Bone Black and the Lead White with graduating opacity as the layers move downwards. In all layers over both the black and the white you can see that it is definitely slightly transparent, although not overbearingly. It lays in a middle ground area. Through my actual testing of Emerald Green in an actual painting it tends to become slightly transparent even without a thinner medium if spread out, although as I said- it isn't on the high end of transparency, more along the lines of somewhere in the middle.

You can see the mixture of Bone Black + Emerald Green and the mixture of Lead White and Emerald Green in the second photo. The tinting strength is medium, coinciding with its transparency rating.

CONCLUSION- I rate Emerald Green as Semi-Transparent [2.5 / 5]. and is a medium opacity tinter.


This test was a bi-product of other tests, as in I wasn't originally planning on testing the permanency of Emerald Green but through my testing of its reactivity I noticed that Emerald Green shifted in hue on its own, without being exposed to sulfur. I found this very odd so I figured I would conduct a little research on how much time it took, and how drastic the changes generally were. In this 1st photo, you can see a mini- time lapse of how the color shifted from its original hue to something else gradually over the period of some months.

1st panel= 6/9/16

2nd Panel= 7/9/16

3rd panel= 10/28/16

The amount the original minty Emerald Green hue has gradually shifted in almost 5 months is very evident, and while the color hasnt necessarily darkened, it has dulled to an extent and become a more "poison" looking green more in hue of Scheele's Green ironically.

Left= Fresh Emerald Green [ 10/28/16 ]

Right= Dry Emerald Green [ 8/9/16 ]

Clear evidence that the minty hue of Emerald Green fresh out of the tube isnt permanent. It ALWAYS [in all of my research] shift a little more to a grassy/ poison emerald green color and loses the minty intensity it has while fresh out of the tube.

CONCLUSION- Emerald Green is a beautiful single pigment color, but it definitely isn't a permanent pigment. If one were to use it [unless you're using it for restoration, or historical integrity practices I wouldn't recommend it] it will not keep its original hue. It will very quickly shift from minty emerald green to a grassy emerald green. This shift happens in a matter of a few weeks to a month. The change is very quick, and I'm not sure how much it will shift over time. I have only been testing since May of 2016.


"Little Boy"- Oil On Linen/Panel, 2016

To top off my research on the working properties of Emerald Green, I figured id show off a painting that I painted primarily using Emerald Green unmixed in a bulk of the painting. This painting rings true many of my findings above. You can see Emerald Green's transparency in the body of the bomb capsule, you can see some of the lead-oil primed linen panel beyond the thin veil of Emerald Green. You can also see thicker areas where I used Emerald Green straight, where it isn't transparent. Also, I made sure that I used the Emerald Green with Genuine Naples Yellow, as there is no reactivity between the two! [due to lack of sulfur] plus in all honesty genuine Naples Yellow is the most beautiful yellow in my opinion. Also, this one was kinda a bonus- but the painting is of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima [in my own painting style of course] and the pigment I'm using is one of the deadliest pigments around. Both synthetic, man-made destruction. Kind of a cool little coincidence in my opinion.

Well, this includes my 1st entry on Emerald Green. I will be posting more on Emerald Green in the future on this SAME blog. I have 1 more major test I would like to conduct, as well as a few smaller things too.

Until next time, take care folks!



Watch a brief verbal explaination of my Emerald Green findings