The collective of museums comprises the Fogg Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, and Arthur M. Sackler Museum. The collection began in the early 20th century, when the former director of the Fogg Museum first gathered vials of pigments to prolong the life spans of old Italian artworks. It has since amassed to contain 2,500 of the world’s rarest colors.
The book explores the beginnings of some of these hues, including the now-extinct ingredients and methods used to form their makeups.
One striking color is the watercolor Indian yellow, which was packaged in balls “the size of golf balls” and created with the urine of cows or buffaloes that were bred on mango leaf diets. Apparently, it “smelled of heat and dust and sweat and flowers.”
Have a look at some pigment samples found in the pages of An Atlas of Rare and Familiar Colour, which has just been back-ordered. You can purchase a copy of the book in paperback and hardback versions over at Atelier Éditions.
Modern Persian ‘Sirini’ Scarlet (Vermilion) pigment made from red lead in Russia and collected in Isfahan, Iran; Straus Center for Conservation (1935). Image by Pascale Georgiev for Atelier Éditions and featured with permission