Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Happenings at the Percolator, Science on Tap, and Obsolete Pigments Part II

We have updates on The Percolator,  our favorite East Lawrence gallery.  Construction on a big hotel next store has started. The alley between the Percolator and the construction site now has a privacy fence across the alley or  as the Perc folks call it "a mural to make future mischief." The non-profit gallery is also working on a fundraiser. This week, the Percolator is seeking donations of prints from local artists.  Those who visit the gallery on Friday and make a donation will receive a print.  Danny Pound will be playing music at Friday's event. 
 Note: You can also enter the Percolator from Rhode Island Street.  Look for the Percolator mailbox. 

View of the Privacy fence at the Percolator

Pic of the dye workshop at the Percolator this past weekend

Science on Tap presents Science Fiction Tonight
Tonight, Science on Tap will discuss science fiction at Free State at 7:30. Chris McKitterick, director of KU's Center for The Study of Science Fiction, will lead a discussion on how science fiction "provides our new myths and teaches us how to survive and remain sane in a changing age." 
See the event page here: http://naturalhistory.ku.edu/events

Note: Did you know that there is an actual center at KU for the Study of Science Fiction? Yup.  It's been around since 1982.  Read about it here: http://www.sfcenter.ku.edu/

Obsolete Pigments

This section of today's post includes Part II of IV of a history lesson on paints and pigments that are no longer used by artists because the contents are hard to come by or hazardous.  The information is geared toward the nerdy folks we know who can't get enough of facts and useless knowledge. We are reproducing content and images found on the online blog Hyperallergic

Mural in the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii, said to incorporate the Dragon’s Blood pigment. (via WIkimedia)

1. Dragon’s Blood

The pigment known as Dragon’s Blood had the most epic and ridiculous of origin stories, a supposed mix of actual dragon’s blood and elephant’s blood. Andrew Dalby’s Dangerous Tastes  chronicles this incredible story from the 16th century navigator Richard Eden:
“[Elephants] have continual warre against Dragons, which desire their blood, because it is very cold: and therefore the Dragon lying awaite as the Elephant passeth by, windeth his taile, being of exceeding length, about the hinder legs of the Elephant, and when the Elephant waxeth faint, he falleth down on the serpent, being now full of blood, and with the poise of his body breaketh him: so that his owne blood with the blood of the Elephant runneth out of him mingled together, which being colde, is congealed into that substance which the Apothecaries call Sanguis Draconis, that is Dragons blood, otherwise called Cinnabaris.”
Martin Drölling, “L’intérieur d’une cuisine” (1815), believed to have been painted with Mummy Brown (via The Louvre) 

2. Mummy Brown

The pigment, a favored shade of the Pre-Raphaelites, was first made with Egyptian mummies, both cat and human, that were ground up and mixed with white pitch and myrrh. It had a great fleshy color, but due to the actual fleshy components it would crack over time. Martin Drölling, who painted the work shown above, reportedly,  used the mummies of French kings dug up from Saint-Denis in Paris. According to a 1964 Time story, the Mummy Brown pigment didn’t last due to a shortage of its name defining ingredient. Managing director of the London based C. Roberson color maker told the magazine:
“We might have a few odd limbs lying around somewhere, but not enough to make any more paint.”

3. Indian Yellow

According to Philip Ball’s Bright Earth: Art and the Invention of Color, the vivid color of Indian Yellow was a source of mystery until the late 19th century. It turned out that the yellow color came from the urine of cattle in the Bihar province of India that were fed only mango leaves and water. The mistreatment of the animals led to the color being illegal and it vanished by 1908.

4. Scheele’s Green

From the comments, we got a tip on Scheele's Green. The yellow-green pigment was a cupric hydrogen arsenite, which was very toxic, yet made it into not just paintings, but candles, wallpaper, and children’s toys. In one incident at a Christmas party, a candle dyed with the color poisoned children, and other 19th century incidents include women in green dresses passing out and those using it to print newspapers suffering from its effects. The arsenic vapors also are believed by some to have played a role in the death of Napoleon, who lived in a room paintly brightly green, his favorite color, as traces of arsenic were found in his hair.

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