A Natural History of the Palette

Book - 2003
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In this vivid and captivating journey through the colors of an artist's palette, Victoria Finlay takes us on an enthralling adventure around the world and through the ages, illuminating how the colors we choose to value have determined the history of culture itself. How did the most precious color blue travel all the way from remote lapis mines in Afghanistan to Michelangelo's brush? What is the connection between brown paint and ancient Egyptian mummies? Why did Robin Hood wear Lincoln green? In Color, Finlay explores the physical materials that color our world, such as precious minerals and insect blood, as well as the social and political meanings that color has carried through time. Roman emperors used to wear togas dyed with a purple color that was made from an odorous Lebanese shellfish--which probably meant their scent preceded them. In the eighteenth century, black dye was called logwood and grew along the Spanish Main. Some of the first indigo plantations were started in America, amazingly enough, by a seventeen-year-old girl named Eliza. And the popular van Gogh painting White Roses at Washington's National Gallery had to be renamed after a researcher discovered that the flowers were originally done in a pink paint that had faded nearly a century ago. Color is full of extraordinary people, events, and anecdotes--painted all the more dazzling by Finlay's engaging style. Embark upon a thrilling adventure with this intrepid journalist as she travels on a donkey along ancient silk trade routes; with the Phoenicians sailing the Mediterranean in search of a special purple shell that garners wealth, sustenance, and presti≥ with modern Chilean farmers breeding and bleeding insects for their viscous red blood. The colors that craft our world have never looked so bright.
Publisher: New York : Ballantine Books, 2003, c2002
Edition: 1st Ballantine Books ed
ISBN: 9780345444301
Characteristics: xii, 448 p., [8] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps ; 22 cm


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Feb 22, 2016

From the first evidence of art on Paleolithic cave walls using natural ochres to the complex processes of concocting dyes and pigments from insects, poisonous elements, rare minerals and mollusks, humans have been manipulating natural resources to create color. Author Victoria Finlay journeys the world over in search of the sources and stories of and processes used to create the traditional hues we have used in artistic expression and to brighten the world around us for millennia.
Fascinating and informative, this was a perfect, though unintentional, companion read to Bill Bryson's At Home.

Oct 04, 2015

An interesting read with lots of lesser known historical details for anyone trying to learn something new every day. I read her subsequent book on gems first and found it more focused but would recommend both books.

Apr 02, 2013

Title for October 2013


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