There is only one pigment as mysterious, and fascinating, as the deadly "Emerald Green- (PG21)" and that is Mummy Brown. Mummy Brown is one of the most fascinating pigments in which its usage was based mostly on historical allure, rather than its technical prowess as an artist’s material. This pigment is mostly comprised of the ground-up remains of Egyptian Mummies [from my research this typically entails humans and felines]. However, there is some argument on the exact composition of the Mummy Brown pigment, and there were some additions and revisions of the pigment as it became a more established pigment.
The pigment of Mummy Brown began being used around the 1500's-1600's, although it is possible that Mummy remains may have been used as a coloring agent for oil paint at prior times throughout history, this hunch is based on the fact that ground up Mummy was used for all kinds of reasons primarily by Europeans- such as fertilizer, medicine etc. It was eventually established as a coloring agent in oil paint during the 15-1600's and generally lasted until the 1960's. There isn't much information available on Mummy Brown, and how it was made, its strengths and weaknesses- and similar to Emerald Green [which was in production from the early 1800's- 1960's] it is extremely hard to find a vintage tube of it.
I myself own 4 tubes of Emerald Green, as well as a pound of the dry pigment, and have my eyes on picking up 2 more tubes if I want to, and know 1 guy that has one tube himself. Sure, my situation is likely just having a good eye for good finds, but it is extremely hard to find unless you do some serious digging. Mummy Brown is an entirely different ballgame. I haven't found any tube or heard of any prior auction of a tube of Mummy Brown ANYWHERE on the internet through a lot of digging and asking around. I am convinced that this is possibly the rarest pigment in the history of painting [at least in oil paints that were tubed for sale]. I even tried, in desperation, to find if there were genuine Mummy parts for sale anywhere on the internet. The ONLY lead I got was a past sale of a mummified Ibis bird head that sold for $1200, and a currently for sale mummified Catfish for $2000.
Mummified ancient Egyptian catfish- roughly 2000 yrs old
You may be able to find another odd ancient Egyptian mummified animal limb through more intense internet digging, but I wouldn't get my hopes up. With Emerald Green the odd vintage tube does pop up from time to time, and the powdered pigment is able to be found through back-door sales on occasion [as it is technically illegal to sell Copper Acetoarsenite in its dry pigment form] but with Mummy Brown, both the paint, and the main ingredient to make the paint are extraordinarily scarce and difficult to find. I am the kind of person who, once I find something that I am interested in, I pursue it endlessly until I am satisfied. Since so far I can’t find a vintage Mummy Brown tube of oil paint, and the only genuine mummified remains available for making pigment out of are of a single catfish for $2000- I figured that I would go about looking at the basic fundamentals of what "Mummy" really is, and reproduce it myself.
Purposeful "Mummy" is essentially the flesh/bone of an organism, likely human or animal that is held in regard by humans that has been preserved primarily through dehydration. Traditionally the ancient Egyptians would take the body of a deceased human or animal and submerge it in Natron [a powerful natural salt] for essentially 2 months so that it can thoroughly draw out all of the moisture from it. Once the moisture has been drawn from the remains, it is now ready for embalming. During the embalming process the remains are washed and embalmed with a variety of different oils/ resins/ waxes etc. and in some cases, Asphaltum was used. Essentially in order to create my own "mummy", I would need to mummify readily available animal flesh. For this 1st delve into studying and experimenting, I chose to use a good quality, old-fashioned beef jerky made out in Oklahoma. No preservatives, no fillers, extremely minimal seasoning [which was almost nonexistent], and it was extra dried out. They marketed this beef jerky as "Cowboy style". It wasn't chewy, and it wasn't loaded with sauces and spices. It was extra dry, smoked, and had a small amount of seasoning on the top, which easily came off. I figured that I would use this as a starting point since I had never tried this before. One thing that should definitely be known about Mummy Brown, is that it is not only [rumored] a difficult pigment to work with, but also an incredibly difficult pigment to find any information about. The last known company to produce Mummy Brown in oil paint form was "Roberson & Co.", an old English art supply company which discontinued production roughly in the mid-1960's stating to Time Magazine “We might have a few odd limbs lying around somewhere, but not enough to make anymore paint.” I even contacted Roberson & Co. to inquire about how exactly they made Mummy Brown, the pigment formula, the exact binder formula, how the pigment was ground etc. and they essentially told me that I likely knew more about Mummy Brown than the modern runners of their company. This dead end, along with the fact that I can’t seem to find any vintage Mummy Brown oil paint tubes around, or genuine Mummy for sale essentially, meant that I would have to synthesize my own Mummy pigment from dehydrated mammal flesh, and from there experiment to make a workable paint. Now I will begin to explain my exploration into resurrecting Mummy Brown.
As I stated briefly above in the introduction, Mummy Brown is a highly obscure pigment in art history and finding any information on it, let alone the original materials to make the stuff, is virtually impossible. I went into this venture with two things in mind. First off with the mindset that if I can't find this paint myself, I will just have to look at the fundamental basics of what makes up this paint and make it myself. The second thing on my mind being that I will have to work from the fundamentals and experiment until I get it "right". However, despite my difficult beginning for this venture, through many late nights researching and digging endlessly for information on the Egyptian mummification process, the history of Mummy Brown, and desperately looking for a vintage recipe or explained process on how Mummy Brown was made- I was able to find a lot of valuable information on how mummies were prepared [dehydration, embalming etc.], and a decent bit about Mummy Brown as a paint and its history. The most valuable piece of information that I found was a pigment recipe to Mummy Brown according to Roberson & Co. that was written in the early 1900's [more on this later. Most of what is written about Mummy Brown online is nothing but folklore, TIME magazine re-hash interview with Roberson & Co., or copy/ paste laziness from Wikipedia. You REALLY have to dig to find out anything worthwhile about Mummy Brown, it truly is an obscure pigment.
So, what I found-
Sally Woodcock, Body Colour: The Misuse Of Mummy, The Conservator, 1996
Read entire thing here- Body Colour: The Misuse Of Mummy
So, within this page, on this section on "Mummy Brown" in the book "The Conservator" there are 2 vague recipe's for making Mummy Brown, according to Roberson & Co.
The 1st recipe states
1. "8 oz of colour, unspecified, but presumably prepared Mummy Brown, and 1/4 oz Cappagh Brown"
This recipe is said to come from an undated book containing recipe's within the Roberson & Co. archive, likely from the 1920's-30's.
2. "...prepared by grinding together the bitumen and bones of an Egyptian Mummy"
This recipe is said to come from the most recent Roberson & Co. catalogue within the archive dated at 1926-33, according to "The Conservator" book.
For comparison to these recipe's, we also have actual Roberson & Co. tubes that we can look in picture detail to examine. The photo of the "Mummy" tube in the page picture above is dated from a 1903 "Illustrated Mail" release. It is in black and white, so it is hard to really examine it. There are, however, full-color photos of Mummy Brown oil paint tubes by Roberson & Co.
Mummy oil paint tubes at Forbes Pigment Collection at Harvard Art Museums
Here are 2 separate tubes of Mummy Brown oil paint made by Roberson & Co. which give us a sense of the the color, texture, and vehicle of the paint as you can see some residue of the paint around the cap of the tube, as well as on the body of the tube. Just by looking at the body of the tube it appears as if the paint has an irregular earthy texture to it, and the binding vehicle looks resinous.
Mummy Brown Pigment sample / Swatch + Forbes Pigment Collection at Harvard Art Museums.
This right here is a sample of Mummy bone on the right, mummy flesh on the left [barely visible]- These 2 things are used to grind pigment. You can also see a color swatch of prepared Mummy oil paint with both "size' and linseed oil. What kind of size, and is it just linseed oil? are 2 questions I don't have answers to. However, from this sample, we get a good look at the hue of Mummy Brown, as well as somewhat of an affirmation of the irregular/ gritty texture of Mummy Brown via the test swatch.
Martin Drölling, “l’intérieur d’une cuisine”, oil on canvas, 1815
The above painting is said to have made extensive usage of Mummy Brown, particularly in the shadow areas of the painting. This is also said to be the reason for the cracking in the paint film as Mummy Brown is mostly made up of flesh thus causing instability. I am not so sure I agree with this claim as you can also see some cracking in the sky outside the window, which highly likely does NOT contain Mummy paint. I would say the root cause of the cracking could likely be due to some sort of component in the medium used- possibly a resin, or too much thinner or possibly even a lighter oil such as poppy or safflower. I am not sure as to if Mummy cracks over time on its own, I do aim to find out in my testing of my reproduction of Mummy Brown.
In this painting using Mummy Brown, comparing it to the above Roberson/ Harvard pigment samples it appears that the Mummy in this painting [if the shadows are a good example of its hue] is darker than the Harvard sample and possibly darker than the Roberson samples. This could mean a few things- It could mean black or a darker brown was mixed in, or it could mean that this sample of Mummy Brown was more Asphaltum heavy than the Harvard sample. I feel like the Harvard sample is only mummy remains ground with linseed oil [or maybe some mixed vehicle, as mummy is a poor drier and thrives better with the addition of driers and resin varnish] and I feel like the Roberson samples are Mummy + Asphaltum + Pinch of Cappagh Brown [based on the recipe's, and the paint tube labels themselves.] I feel like the samples of Mummy in the painting are similar to Roberson Mummy, maybe dabbed with a little bit of a separate pigment to envelop a darker shadowy look. Probably a Bone Black, or Cassel Earth paint. The transparency of Mummy Brown makes it particularly a great choice for shadows, as it has been suggested that it was used for in this painting. These are just my speculations.
Ok, now that I have given you evidence of a semi-proper pigment recipe for Mummy Brown I can provide a handful of academic sources. These sources in which chemistry and art history come together to help provide as close as possible an accurate look at what Mummy Brown was, it's working characteristics, the Egyptian Mummification process, and a pathway for creating a close reproduction of Mummy Brown oil paint.
I would like to start off with the section on Mummy Brown in the book "Chromatography, or A treatise on colours and pigments" by George Field, 1816
Chromatography, or A treatise on colours and pigments This link will generate the "Browns" section of the book, starting you on Asphaltum, which is very similar to dehydrated mummy flesh in practice, and likely used in many Mummy Brown recipe's and even some ancient Egyptian mummification embalming processes.
Read more here-
Excerpt from a book by Mrs. Merrifield,1849 - Original Treatises in the arts of painting
Read more here- Original Treatises in the arts of painting
G.M. Languri, Molecular studies of Asphalt, Mummy and Kassel earth pigments: their characterisation, identification and effect on the drying of traditional oil paint, 2004
Read more here- Molecular studies of Asphalt, Mummy and Kassel earth pigments: their characterisation, identification and effect on the drying of traditional oil paint
Ok, now that I have shared 4 academic sources regarding the composition, history, and characteristics of Mummy Brown, allow me to explain the scope and significance of each.
1. Sally Woodcock, Body Colour: The Misuse Of Mummy, The Conservator, 1996
This is in the more recent half of the 4 studies, dated at 1996. This publication focuses on the gradual history of the usage of Mummy powder for things from fertilizer, to medicine, to artist paint pigment. This publication sources us directly to the last company [and honestly the only company that I know about] to make Mummy Brown oil paint- Roberson & Co. It also gives us 2 partial recipe's regarding the pigment combination for Mummy Brown from the Roberson & Co. archive. This research has cemented the bedrock as to a base formula for the PIGMENT aspect of historical Mummy Brown, although the actual binding vehicle is still a mystery. The actual oil/resin/drier/stabilizer combination that makes up a vehicle is not listed. I have a hard time believing that the vehicle to bind the pigment is just linseed oil, mostly because Mummy Brown is a poor drier and if Roberson included Asphaltum into the mix, or the mummy being sourced for pigment included Asphaltum from the ancient embalming process- that is also a poor drying pigment. From this publication, we can infer a very good estimation on what the pigment composition tended to look like for Mummy Brown. From this we can see that it was an adulterated color, meaning it wasn't a single pigment color. From the Roberson archive recipe's it seems that it was either a double or triple pigment color. Using ground up mummy powder [dehydrated flesh], Cappagh Brown [an earthy pigment high in manganese, with a dark yellow ochre hue], and it's possible that Asphaltum was added separately into the mixture.
In this publication the author also talks about the principle uses for Mummy were said to be for glazing, varnishing, and flesh tones- Every source that speaks on the characteristics is unanimous about this. This also supports the notion that a resin varnish may have been used in part as the vehicle for the oil paint, or at least used with it as a medium to work properly. This publication also speaks to the working characteristics of Mummy Brown. How it doesn't dry properly, and how it is very transparent. The fact that it is very transparent is why it's such a great pigment for glazing, flesh tones, shadows, and varnishing. The fact that it is a poor drier is why it has been adulterated with other pigments often times. Asphaltum was said to be very similar to Mummy powder in the sense that it was also transparent and a poor drier, however some believed the 2 together made for a nice hue and aided the negative drying aspect- also it appears as if small amounts of earth pigments may have been added in order to improve drying times.
2. George Field, Chromatography, or A treatise on colours and pigments, 1816 -
This is the oldest out of the 4 academic sources. This source seems to be all behind the idea Bitumen/ Asphaltum being used during the embalming process of ancient Egyptian Mummies. It also notes that Asphaltum and mummy powder when made into paint work virtually the same, which may hint as to the confusion some people have with differentiating the two. Asphaltum tends to be darker, and may have been added to darken the hue of Mummy Brown, make it slightly more opaque, and/or to coincide with what people once believed to be an accurate ritual of using Bitumen/ Asphaltum in the embalming process of mummies- which is up for debate and is only partially true. More on this once I give a few academic sources on the actual mummification process in ancient Egypt. This source also mentions "animal remains" likely hinting that more than just human mummies were used. In fact, it is well known that both cats and humans were used for mummy powder related materials. It may be possible that other mummified species were also used. More on this when I delve into the mummification process and list academic sources for that.
3. Mrs. Merrifield, Original Treatises in the arts of painting, 1849
This is another one of the older sources for my research. I find this to be a very powerful one, and it provides us with a notion that I couldn't agree with more. This source more nuanced distinction between Mummy powder and Asphaltum. It also points out how artists and paint makers may have alleviated the issues with both Mummy, and Asphaltum by using driers, and resin varnishes to speed drying/ make for a more solid paint film. This notion that driers may be present, and that resins may be used pops up quite a bit between the academic sources in which I have studied and noted here for all to read. It is very likely that Mummy Brown was a very complex oil paint, with many components to make it function as desired. My 4th source, really tells all and rolls out the red carpet for the truth of Mummy Brown, as it is the most recent and has the most scientific analysis and provenance on Mummy Brown.
4. G.M. Languri, Molecular studies of Asphalt, Mummy and Kassel earth pigments: their
characterisation, identification and effect on the drying of traditional oil paint, 2004
This source is the most recent, as well as the most in-depth regarding physical evidence, and chemistry based analysis in regards to the actual composition of Mummy Brown, both pigment and vehicle wise. A lot of the previous hunches and conservator and artist alike speculations on Mummy Brown were brought into the lab for testing and a bag of mixed results emerged. Within this source, a sample of "19th Century Mummy Pigment" was taken to the lab for chemical analysis. In the snippet that I shared on my blog, extracted from the full research publication, the final analysis on the "Mummy Pigment" was revealed. It appears as if animal flesh of some sort had been used, most likely of cat or human origins- However it was also suggested that the "fat component" could be fungal or bacterial based. So I'll break down both the pigment components, as well as the vehicle components of the oil paint.
ALL components within the "Mummy Brown" paint sample- "Animal fat", Asphaltum, Mastic resin, Linseed oil, Beeswax, Pine resin
Pigment- "Animal Fat"(likely flesh of animal origin- most likely human or feline based), Asphaltum [could have been part of embalming process, or added separately], pine resin, beeswax [the pine resin and beeswax could be the result of the embalming process of the mummy, or could be additions to the vehicle during the paint making process]
Vehicle- Mastic resin, linseed oil
The 19th century sample of Mummy Brown that was tested cant be conclusive as having Egyptian mummy components, but as stated prior there IS evidence of "animal fat", and things that are usually associated with the production/ embalming process of mummy brown [asphaltum, beeswax, pine resin] suggesting that it is definitely possible that Egyptian Mummies were involved.
I also have 1 academic source regarding the actual mummification process of Egyptian mummies.
A REVIEW ON THE MATERIALS USED DURING THE MUMMIFICATION PROCESSES IN ANCIENT EGYPT, Gomaa Abdel-Maksouda
, Abdel-Rahman El-Aminb, 2011
Read more here- A REVIEW ON THE MATERIALS USED DURING THE MUMMIFICATION PROCESSES IN ANCIENT EGYPT
Ok, now my thoughts regarding this source in regards to ancient Egyptian mummification, and how it ties into Mummy Brown oil paint.
Reading this publication confirmed what I had seen speckled throughout my 4 Mummy Brown oil paint academic sources, as well as from other Mummy Brown and Egyptian mummification sources that I have read but not listed here. Egyptian mummification wasn't a linear process. First, let's understand at the core what an ancient Egyptian mummy is before we dissect the various forms of mummification that they used.
1. Subject- Usually the subject being mummified was human, or feline. There are examples of other species being mummified [such as birds, and even fish] but humans and cats were at the top of the totem pole.
2.What is mummification?- Mummification is essentially a dried out corpse free of moisture, thus preventing bacterial growth, rot and decay. Preserving for the most part the general form of the organism in question. Embalming was a secondary step taken both for decoration, as well anti-bacterial purposes.
Now that we understand that Egyptian mummification is essentially dehydrated corpses of humans/ felines [occasionally other species] that may or may not be embalmed with various resins/ oils lets look into the materials and methods used to accomplish said "Mummification".
1. Dehydration- This is the CORE component of mummification. Nothing is technically needed beyond this to preserve a corpse, however, embalming may help a bit with preservation from an anti-pest repellent, it is mostly decoration. Dehydration for mummification in ancient Egypt first started from the hot dry sand of the desert in accompaniment with the blistering heat. Heat + Dryness cause the mummification process to take place. This method was by accident and was largely replaced by dehydration by Natron salt. Egyptians began burying their dead in the sand within enclosed structures [which reduced exposure to the heat of the sun and the bodies began to rot. It was because of this flaw that they began using Natron salt to suck all the moisture out of the corpse, causing mummification. So the 2 methods of the Egyptians used for the dehydration process of mummification was burial in hot desert sand and letting the heat/ dryness of the sun/sand to do the job, and the other and newer form was submerging the corpse in Natron salt to suck all the moisture out of the body, usually 70 days or so was needed to adequately dehydrate the corpse.
2. Embalming- After the corpse was dehydrated thoroughly the Egyptians were known to embalm the mummy with various oils/ resins. This seems to be largely for purposes of decoration, but may have had anti-bacterial purposes and aided in preservation. This process was a lot more varied than the dehydration process, which essentially had 2 methods, with 1 [Natron Salt] dominating. The embalming process was much more based on the status of the corpse in question, and the region where the process was taking place. There was no set in stone way to do it. Some things used for embalming are as follows-
There are others, but those are just some examples. During the embalming process the corpse was generally washed, dried, and then received treatment of resin/oils to the skin and then were wrapped with linen, and possibly treated over the linen bandages as well. Pine resin appears to be one of the more common items used in embalming, but it varied a lot from one specimen to the next. Some weren't embalmed with anything, likely due to status. Being a person of lower status, or a species other than human/ feline. The dehydration process is really the only necessary component to the mummification process.
In the beeswax section of this publication it appears that a common formula for embalming included-
It doesnt specify in what quantities, but I am assuming that this is a general ballpark range of what an embalming mixture would look like, and likely a treatment given to human specimens of importance.
My general consensus is based on my 5 academic sources regarding Mummy Brown oil paint, as well as the Egyptian mummification process, and my photographic sources of Mummy Brown oil paint, and a painting likely painted mostly with Mummy Brown.
Mummy Brown oil paint broken down into categories
Pigment- Mummy Flesh, Asphaltum, Earth pigments [Cappagh Brown]
Vehicle- Linseed oil, resin varnish,Beeswax, driers
Characteristics- Very transparent, poor drier, burnt umber hue, weak tinter
Uses- Flesh tone mixer, glazing, shadows
Dehydration- Natron salt, Natural Heat/Dryness
Embalming- Resin, oil, beeswax
This is a general rundown I have from the academic sources that I have listed above. Now I am going to provide details on how I intend to reproduce this as close as possible.
Dehydrated Cow flesh + Finished tubes of Mummy Brown
REPRODUCTION MUMMY BROWN
MUMMY- Since access to genuine mummies is a rare, and expensive prospect, I am going to be observing what a mummy is essentially. Mummy is essentially dehydrated flesh from primarily mammal sources. I am dehydrating the flesh myself, grinding it into a powder, and then mixing some things known as embalming materials during the mulling of the oil paint, rather than beforehand as with genuine mummies. The embalming materials become part of the paint recipe at this point. Will explain more below.
Dehydration- The way that I am choosing to dehydrate the mammal flesh is by using a food dehydrator in which heat and anti-humidity is introduced by artificially induced heat, and a fan to dehydrate the flesh. The dehydrated flesh strips are then put into a coffee grinder and ground up into a fine powder pigment.
Embalming materials- Asphaltum, Beeswax, Amber resin. These materials are mixed in with the final paint.
MUMMY BROWN OIL PAINT- This recipe is a piecing together from my 4 sources, as well as my rough pigment recipe's from Roberson archive listed above in this publication.
Pigment- Dehydrated mammal flesh[Mummy], Asphaltum, Raw Sienna [earth pigment close to Cappagh Brown]
Vehicle- Dark drying linseed oil [linseed oil + lead oxide], Amber resin varnish, Beeswax
Drier- Cobalt Zirconium [also contains Lead Oxide within dark drying linseed oil]
The exact ratio's for the pigments/ vehicles of this paint will remain largely unlisted. I can say this however-
Pigment- Overwhelmingly dehydrated mammal flesh [Mummy], a decent amount of Asphaltum, and a pinch of Raw Sienna
Vehicle- The vehicle is essentially equal parts of 3 different mediums. Dark drying linseed oil, amber varnish, beeswax.
PURPOSE BEHIND PAINT COMPONENTS
Dehydrated Mammal flesh- This is the core ingredient of the paint. Without this, it wouldn't be Mummy Brown. This is the key factor as to why the final paint is transparent. Poor drying, dull reddish leaning brown.
Asphaltum- This is one of the ingredients used for embalming Egyptian mummies, as well as to adulterate Mummy Brown oil paint. Asphaltum is very similar to Mummy [dehydrated flesh] in terms of how it mulls in oil paint. It is very transparent [slightly more opaque than Mummy], and it is a poor drier. It differs in hue, being a dull darker brownish black color.
Raw Sienna- This pigment is added in response to the Roberson & Co. pigment recipe's in the earlier parts of my publication that included earth pigment "Cappagh Brown" which is high in manganese, and dark yellow ochre'ish in hue. Cappagh Brown, upon researching the pigment, was an umber pigment specifically mined in Ireland. I could not find access to this pigment at the current time, so I sought out something as close as possible. I figured Raw Sienna would be a great substitute, as it was similar in hue [dark yellow ochre looking], raw sienna is also semi-transparent [in congruence with transparency with the mummy and Asphaltum pigments], and Raw Sienna was also high in Manganese, which worked as a drier. Adding earth pigments as adulterants to Mummy Brown was primarily done to speed drying time, and add some opacity to the Mummy Brown. This pigment was added sparingly.
Dark Drying Linseed Oil- Oil is obviously going to be the key component to an OIL paint. I chose dark drying linseed oil because Mummy Brown is a very poor drier on its own, both mummy pigment and Asphaltum are poor drying. The presence of Lead Oxide in the dark drying linseed oil aids in the drying process.
Amber Varnish- The inclusion of Amber varnish is for a few different reasons. The varnish consists of roughly 50 % amber resin dissolved in turpentine and 50% walnut oil. The embalming of mummies included oils and resins, for my embalming materials I chose things that had multiple purposes, and were often cited as adulterants in Mummy Brown production anyway. The amber resin varnish doubles somewhat as a drier, as well as a slight sheen increaser [although not overpowering].
Beeswax- The inclusion of beeswax, like amber varnish, serves 2 purposes. The Beeswax is used in accordance to mummy embalming, as well as the double effect of being a good stabilizer for bonding the pigment and vehicle. The fact that there is oil within the amber varnish means the vehicle is mostly oil, with a ratio of probably 60 oil/ 40 wax. Although each component is added equally at around 33 1/3 % each.
Drier- I use a 2nd drier, which is more concentrated in order to give my Mummy Brown a stronger drying time. Cobalt Zirconium
From pigment, to finished paint of my Mummy Brown oil paint reproduction.
My reproduction of Mummy Brown is based on 5 academic publications on Mummy Brown/ Egyptian mummification, as well as pictorial evidence of Roberson & Co. oil paint tubes, and the picture of Mummy Brown likely used in the Martin Drölling painting. This reproduction of mine is made to be as close as possible to what these sources suggest of Mummy Brown, but it is important for me to reiterate that it is just that, a close approximation of Mummy Brown, as I have to substitute the main ingredient, as well as a minor ingredient. It is also important to let it be known that this is NOT a hue. My Mummy Brown reproduction is very similar in terms of basic ingredients as historical Mummy Brown. I would say that my reproduction is similar to modern day "Ivory Black" which isn't made from burnt Ivory bone carbon but is made from more common burnt animal bone carbon. Modern Ivory Black [BONE BLACK] is nearly identical in terms of basic ingredients to historical IVORY BLACK, as well as nearly identical in its working characteristics in oil paint. The key difference is that historical Ivory Black uses a specific type of bone [ivory] for burning, and Bone Black uses ANY animal bones for burning. The same can be said for historical Mummy Brown, as it uses very specific dehydrated mammal flesh [human, cat of ancient Egyptian origin] and my reproduction is essentially any mammal flesh that I choose to dehydrate myself. The issue of embalming is addressed above in which I note that a mummy doesn't need to be embalmed in order to be preserved, nor was it always embalmed, nor was there a 1 shoe fits all method for embalming. On top of this, my pigment/ vehicle makeup of Mummy Brown includes a solid mixture of items commonly associated with Egyptian embalming, that serves a double purpose for the paint, as well were historically used as adulterants in making Mummy Brown [ as can be observed by reviewing my 5 academic sources].
My next entry in here on Mummy Brown will be detailing the working characteristics of my Mummy Brown reproduction, or as some may call it "Flesh Brown". I will be testing the same things as I did with my Vintage Emerald Green oil paint tubes.
-Transparency/ Tinting strength
-Pigment In Practice
After all tests have been performed, I will begin the process of announcing my Mummy Brown reproduction for sale, as well as a "Basic Mummy" paint which will only be dehydrated mammal flesh for the pigment [Asphaltum, and raw sienna excluded], and also an oil paint that is only Asphaltum. This will be a trio of transparent browns in varying hues and subtle differences that will be detailed once I begin to start selling them.
More to come!
WORKING CHARACTERISTICS OF "MUMMY PAINTS"
The initial entry into my Mummy Brown blog post detailed both the history of Mummy Brown as an artists oil paint, as well as detailed my plan to reproduce it. Since Egyptian mummies are largely out of the question for reproducing this fabled pigment, I have turned to a basic equivalation of what Mummies actually are. They are essentially severely dehydrated mammal flesh that has usually been embalmed with a variety of resins and waxes. My reproduction of Mummy Brown entails severely dehydrating mammal flesh [for all of my tests in this blog it has been by using cow] and then adding commonly used ingredients in embalming process of Egyptian mummies to the paint medium once I begin making the paint. Things like amber resin varnish, beeswax etc. These ingredients also work as doubling agents to helping the paint work in a similar manner to a standard oil paint, as Mummy has its issues with drying on its own, as does Asphaltum.
The "Mummy Paints" that I will be testing are as follows:
"Basic Mummy"- This paint includes only severely dehydrated mammal flesh that has been pulverized as its pigment source.
"Mummy Brown"- This paint includes an overwhelming majority of its pigment as severely dehydrated mammal flesh, a decent amount of powdered Asphaltum, and a small amount of Raw Sienna as additional pigments. This is the star of the paints being tested, as it is meant to most closely replicate historical Mummy Brown. This reproduction is very closely following the recipe of Roberson & Co.
"Asphaltum"- This paint just includes powdered asphaltum. Very simple.
"Transparent Mummy hue"- This is a transparent red iron oxide paint made by the company Rublev that works as a modern day hue for Mummy Brown.
Ok, so now onto the results- Mummy Brown
-Toxicity- Not toxic [the pigments themselves aren't toxic, but the added driers are]
-Reactivity- Not reactive with sulfur
-Lightfastness- ASTM III
-Transparency/ Tinting strength- Very transparent
Now, onto the test results in-depth
12/7/16 - 3/7/17
For this test, I take the pigment[s] in question and I combine them with a sulfur bearing pigment. The go-to pigment is Cadmium yellow. This test is to see if the pigment[s] in question begins to react with the sulfur and start to blacken. This is essentially exclusively a reaction reserved for heavy metal based pigments, copper and arsenic are some of the most reactive. I still like to run pigments through this test because it is good to know if sulfur is a reactive compound to the pigment[s] being tested.
The colors are labeled in the photograph on the test strip. The time between left and the right slide is 3 months. So after 3 months, you can see how/ if at all it has changed.
The photograph on the left is slightly darker because I ha to photograph it as the paint was still wet. The photograph on the right is actually a computer scan of the test strip. Either way, you can ultimately see that no change has taken place whatsoever in the paint other than maybe some shrinking. As far as the color goes, it has not blackened from sulfur exposure. This is something that I expected. Even in a few historical texts on Mummy Brown, there were mentions of it not falling prey to foul air, meaning sulfur exposure.
CONCLUSION- Not reactive with sulfur.
For this test, I have taken all 4 of the colors in question and I have exposed them all to direct sunlight for 3 months straight. This test shows how well the pigment[s] being questioned reacts to UV exposure. Ultimately this test tells how well a certain pigment/ color will hold up over time being exposed to light. Direct sunlight is one of the best ways to test how well a pigment is affected light because it speeds up the rate of exposure. The more lightfast a pigment, the less chance it has/ slower rate of fading to UV light exposure. Historically both Asphaltum and Mummy Brown have been said to be poor in the lightfastness category.
This has turned out to be true in my testing.
Listed here from left to right:
12/7/16 - 3/7/16
Transparent Mummy HUE
Mummy Brown, Basic Mummy, and Asphaltum are all strongly affected by the 3 months of sun exposure, whereas the Mummy HUE [red iron oxide] hasn't been affected by the exposure. The Asphaltum has gotten cooler in tone, which I will perceive as fading. This is noticeable in the Mummy Brown as well, you notice a cooling in tone on the right test strip that was exposed. This makes sense because Mummy Brown contains both dehydrated mammal flesh pigment as well as Asphaltum. The very small amount of Raw sienna doesn't help the lightfastness of Mummy Brown at all it seems. Perhaps the most affected by the UV exposure is the Basic Mummy, which is essentially only dehydrated mammal flesh as a pigment. It has changed in tone and faded completely from the unaffected test strip.
CONCLUSION- Not lightfast
For this test, I test how transparent the pigment[s] in question are. I also mix them with both Bone Black, as well as Lead white to show their tinting strength. All 4 of these colors have shown to be transparent.
Colors are listed as follows [vertically glazed over bone black and lead white]:
Transparent Mummy HUE
In addition to glazing these colors over bone black and lead white, I also mixed them each with bone black and lead white which can be seen on the right side of the test strips, labeled by pairs of mixtures with the proper name.
While all 4 of the colors were indeed transparent, the most opaque was the red iron oxide mummy HUE made by Rublev. The most transparent was the Basic Mummy paint. Historically speaking my results are accurate. Many texts write about Mummy Brown and Asphaltum both being very transparent colors, perfect for glazing, shading, and making flesh tones.
CONCLUSION- Very Transparent.
The permanency test shows whether the pigment will fade or change in hue on its own [without direct sunlight exposure for an extended period of time or Sulphur exposure]. Even if a color is generally considered to be permanent on its own, over time it will fade/ change in hue quicker if it isn't a lightfast pigment.
CONCLUSION- Mummy Brown is a permanent color.
PIGMENT IN PRACTICE
Officer Demaree, oil on linen panel, 11 X 14in. , 2017
For this test, I am employing the 3 colors that I have made [Basic Mummy, Mummy Brown, and Asphaltum] in an original oil painting created by me. Since Mummy Brown was generally considered to be best for glazing, flesh tone mixing, and shadows I figured the best way to test it would be to do a portrait style painting with my paints. I used both Mummy Brown and Basic Mummy for glazing + flesh tones in this painting, as well as for some of the background marks. I used the Asphaltum oil paint in the background tone.
This concludes my research on Mummy Brown. In this research blog I have included a brief history of Mummy Brown, how it was made, how I reproduced it, as well as how it tests and handles.
I will begin selling my 2 oil paints now [Basic Mummy, and Mummy Brown]
You can purchase my Mummy Brown oil paint here-
I will also begin offering portrait painting comissions similar to the one I have posted here in this blog.