In this video, we explore the use of the ultramarine pigment in art over the centuries.
Ultramarine is a deep blue colour pigment, originally made by grinding lapis lazuli into a powder. The name comes from the Latin word ‘ultramarinus’, literally “beyond the sea”, because the pigment was introduced to Europe from Afghanistan by Italian traders, over the 14th and 15th centuries.
Unsurprisingly, because of the prohibitive costs associated with it, the colour was traditionally restricted to the raiment of Christ or the Virgin Mary, and is particularly associated with Renaissance art.
European painters depended on wealthy patrons to underwrite their purchase, and less scrupulous craftsmen were known to swap ultramarine for smalt or indigo and pocket the difference.
Until the invention of a synthetic version of ultramarine pigment in 1826, this precious blue pigment was thus the most expensive in the world – even more so than gold.
Learn more about the history of ultramarine blue in art, here.
View the original video here.
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