Art Quote for the Day

LAKE COLORS

Cinnabar and red lead have an orange tint, and red ocher is dull. The dyers of ancient Egypt enjoyed the richer, darker hue of kermes, but with occasional exceptions such as indigo,dyes are too translucent to serve a paints on wood, stone, or plaster.  The Egyptians knew of a solution to this short-coming, although we cannot tell if  they invented it.  The water-soluable crimson dye is affixed to an inorganic, colorless carrier powder, generating a relatively opaque solid material called a lake pigment.

Lake is now a generic label for any dye-based pigment, but once it pertained to red alone. In the Middle Ages red lake was made not just from the gummy secretion of the kermes insect ( which became known as carmine lake) but from a related resin called lac ( also spelled lak or lack). This encrusts the twiggy branches of trees indigenous to India and southeast Asia and is exuded by the scale insect Laccifer lacca.  The modern lacquer shellac is a processed form of lac resin. Lac was imported to Europe in large quantities from  the early thirteenth century, and as a result it became a blanket term for all red dye-based pigments, including those already in circulation, such as carmine.

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