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VMs: Re: Red stars, yellow stars
- To: voynich@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Voynich Ms. mailing list)
- Subject: VMs: Re: Red stars, yellow stars
- From: Luis Vélez <legal1@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Fri, 10 May 2002 09:26:31 -0400
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>> this is prompted by an E-mail exchange with Nick
>> Pelling, but is of general 'interest'.
>> The colours of most items in the VMs have been
>> noted down both by Jim Reeds and myself during
>> visits to the Beinecke. I remember also other
>> reports about the colours in the Zodiac section.
>> Most of these reports (well, all of them I guess)
>> would be in the archive.
I remembered Nick saying in a private email exchange:
> I'd really love a proper pigment/vellum/pollen/binding analysis to be done
> on the VMS - I think it's incredible that none has been done to date. The
> one document with the least hard evidence! At the very least, the sparkly
> (flecked) blue pigment would have its own story to tell, I'm sure. :-)
So I turned to Professor DeLaney from Truman (as her work 'From the
Apothecary's Shelf to the Painter's Palette: Pigments in Renaissance
Florence'), and this is what she said about the blue pigment on f67r:
> As I'm sure you can understand, I'm hesitant to say anything definitive
> without seeing the pigment and page in the original. I also should add
> that I'm not a mss. specialist. Having said that, to my eye it could well
> be a pigment made from the mineral azurite, which would have been mined in
> Germany, as well as other places, during the early modern period. However,
> without seeing the page in the original, I cannot say for certain.
> You might look at the excellent series put out by the National Gallery and
> Yale University Press, entitled "Artists' Pigments: a handbook of their
> history and characteristics." It's now in 3 volumes, and I believe volume
> 1 has an extensive entry on azurite. It should list some characteristics
> you might use when looking at the page itself, as well as countries of
> origin, etc. Azurite certainly would have been widely available during the
> early modern period (however, that also means that finding the origin of
> the pigment would not necessarily help you to determine where it was
> produIt is very hard, and has to be smashed and then ground patiently with
mortar and pestle until it slowly and dustily turns to powder. ced).
Then, azurite it is?
I checked "The identification of blue pigments in early Sienese
paintings by color infrared photography" by Cathleen Honiger...
and some additional material - in the end, this is what I gathered, in a
*Recipes for making artificial blue pigments are found in literature dating
from the 3rd century AD that managed to survive five hundred years of Dark
Ages to reemerge between the VIII-IX centuries in two Latin manuscripts
containing recipes for the preparation of blue pigments from both copper and
* Azurite was an important pigment in Europe from the 15th to 17th
centuries, but then vanished when Hungary, the primary source of the natural
pigment, was conquered by the Turks.
About the other candidates for blue pigments:
*The oldest synthetic pigment is known as Egyptian blue frit and was
produced by firing in a kiln a mixture of one part lime (calcium oxide) with
one part copper oxide and four parts quartz (silica). The resulting hue was
widely used in Egyptian wall paintings.
* The highest valued color pigment of the Middle Ages was ultramarine, an
intense blue pigment made from lapis lazuli collected in Southern
Afghanistan. Being the most expensive, it was always typically chosen for
portraits of the Virgin Mary, which explains the custom of showing her
always clad in blue. Ultramarine and Azurite can be hard to distinguish
without microscopy, based only on a prior knowledge of how each color should
* The iron blues are the first of the artificial pigments with a known
history and an established date of first preparation. The color was made by
the Berlin colormaker Diesbach in or around 1704. Moreover, the material is
so complex in composition and method of manufacture that there is
practically no possibility that it was synthesized independently in other
times or places. Although alchemists found the majority of colors in
minerals like malachite (green), azurite (blue), orpiment (yellow) and
realgar (orange), they extracted others from plants and even insects. One of
the Middle Ages' most distinctive pigments, kermes ? from which the word
carmine derives ? was extracted from a wingless insect, kermes vermilio,
that lives on scarlet oaks around the Mediterranean.
There was also Cerulean Blue, cobalt blue and Indigo, but these would seem
unlikely candidates at first glance.
So azurite remains our prime suspect - unless it was some weird mulberry