TRADITIONAL AND MODERN BLUE PIGMENTS IN
CENTURY TECHNICAL LITERATURE
S6nia Barros dos Santosa, Antonio Jolo
Centro de InvestigaqGo em Cidncia e Tecnologia das Artes, Universidade Catolica, Portugal
Politkcnico de Tomar, Portugal
lgh century was a period of major chemical
and industrial development that led
to the emergence of new pigments. The technical literature of this century suggests that in
Portugal traditional blue pigments, whlch had already been abandoned in other places,
continued to be used, with some significance, at the end of the century. On the other hand,
it shows that new pigments only began to appear, on average, about
their discovery or beginning of commercialization, respectively. However, in the end of the
century, international trade marks such as
were already at painters' disposal.
Keywords: pigments; Portugal; nineteenth century; technical literature; painting treatises.
During the 19" century a large number of new pigments for artists appeared due to
Chemistry great development and discovery of new chemical elements. Among others,
cobalt, chromium, cadmium or zinc compounds gradually replaced many of the
traditionally pigments. Factors largely contributing to the spreading of the new pigments
and other materials through Europe were the chemical industry development, the
establishment of several artists' materials manufacturers and the collapsible tubes invention
in the middle of the century
However, it is known that artists, both because of the expensiveness and poor properties
(derived from the initial deficiencies of certain manufacture processes) of some materials,
did not always rapidly adopt new pigments. For such behaviour other factors might have
contributed, namely the personal resistance to innovation or change and the trade market
These questions have been ignored until now in relation to the Portuguese painting.
Therefore, nothng is known about how were these new pigments regarded or when has
their use begun. Integrated in a larger research that aims to clarify these issues, references
to the blue pigments were collected from technical literature published in Portugal during
the 19" century. The use of the traditional pigments was recorded and, for the new
materials, the year when they were first mentioned and their importance according to the
number of references found were established. Signs of innovation, persistence and
disappearance in the use of materials were pursued. These results are discussed in the
context of the
9" century technical literature published in other European countries, such
as France or Great Britain, where several of the new pigments were first prepared and
introduced. Attention was also given to the various historical and local designations
attributed to pigments of this colour.
century technical literature
In the course of the 19'" century, the scientific and the industrial development led to the
emergence of a new type of literature concerning artists' materials, focussed on physical
and chemical subjects, whch contributed to the growing gap between the materials'
knowledge possessed by artists and the materials' knowledge possessed by scientists and
paints' manufacturers [S-71. However, this type of literature was not common in Portugal
and, until the end of the 19th century, the technical literature with information about the
pigments consisted mainly of books of recipes or secrets, instructions for artists and
encyclopaedic works, as in the previous centuries [8,9]. Among the exceptions, one can
count the works of Diogo de Carvalho e Sampayo
W. Goethe in its
already published in the late 18" century, and, in the beginning of the 20~
century, two catalogues from an artists' materials seller.
Until the middle of the 19" century, Prussian blue, a pigment first synthesized in the
beginning of the 18~ century, is the only modem pigment mentioned in the Portuguese
literature. It is cited by Sarnpayo, namely in the last of his books with information about
pigments , in an anonymous translation from French, although not always respectful to
the original, dated from l801 [l l], of a work attributed to Franqois Xavier Vispre first
published in France in 1756, and in two other books published in 1815 and 1841 [12,13],
respectively, although the later is a revised edition of a original dated from 1817.
The first mentions to other modem pigments, that is, to pigments developed in the 19'~
century, and, consequently, the first signs of change may be detected only in 1840s, namely
in two publications [14,1 51, even if the first was a revised edition of a work first published
in 1794. Written as books of secrets, they integrate a collection of recipes for various fields
of manufacture and testify the persistence of craft manufactures at the beginning of
industrialization, which arrived late (and discretely) in the country. However, they are up-
to-date in its references. Despite the fact that their references to colour materials are rather
orientated towards the use of dyes in textile industry, new synthetic pigments were found
here for the first time.
Publications from the second half of the century, or more specifically, from the end of the
19'~ century, remain heterogeneous. The first is a technical dictionary, written by the
sculptor Francisco de Assis Rodrigues, which is considered a reference for materials and
techniques . It is a book that mentions a very limited number of new pigments and
frequently cites a Portuguese treatise dated from the beginning of the 17'~ century.
Probably, this situation can be partially explained by a smaller importance of pigments in
sculpture and by a possible larger traditionalism of the officinal practices relating to the
painting of sculptures
an activity frequently done by an artist that was not the sculptor.
Some years later, the painter Manuel de Macedo is the author of three small books on
painting and restoration that are very informative about the pigments [l 7- 191. They confirm
that by the end of the century several synthetic pigments circulated in the country and were
used by painters. Among other works [20,21], two catalogues from the earliest years of the
2oth century, published by an artists' materials seller
were also found
and used [22,23]. In addition to the systematic information provided by the detailed lists of
pigments, they also show the provenance of the materials, since they carry the brand of the
and, for that reason, many are named in French.
Blue pigments in Portuguese
century technical literature
The blue pigments found in the literature just cited were separated in two different groups:
traditional blue pigments and modem blue pigments. It must be pointed out that, in both
groups, some difficulties arouse in relation to nomenclature: on the one hand, several
designations were employed for a single pigment; on the other, one designation applies to
A specific problem is posed by the designation ultramarine blue found after the mid
century: in some cases it is not clear whether it applies to the natural or to the synthetic
variety. Consequently, in those cases the name and the material were not considered. In
other cases, it is proposed an identification for the names employed, based on the
information provided both by the analysed literature and the standard bibliography on the
subject [5,24-271, although some doubts still remain.
61, blues ashes [14,16,18,20,22], natural ultramarine [l 1 -14,16,18,20], smalt
[12,18,19], and indigo and indigo carmine 114-221 are included in the traditional group.
Azurite was described as
azul de Castela,
names with origin in the 17'~
century treatise cited by Rodrigues . Blue ashes are cited as
a name that can be applied both to azurite and to its artificial variety, blue verditer.
Probably it is the latter that is mentioned, but, as doubts still remain, that designation was
kept. Natural ultramarine is named
ultramarino, azul ultramar, lapis-lazuli, lazulite
The interpretation of
as natural ultramarine results from the
comparison of the Portuguese work [l
l] with the French original. Smalt was mentioned as
azul de esmalte.
Indigo is named
while indigo carmine is
carmim de anil, azul da Saxonia, azul de Inglaterra
azul de Poerner.
carmine, although discovered in 1740, was considered in this group because its association
to indigo .
Regarding modem synthetic pigments, five pigments were found: Prussian blue, cobalt
blue, cerulean blue, artificial ultramarine and blue alizarin lake.
Prussian blue is mentioned as
azul da Przissia
anil da Przissia
prussiato de ferro
azul da illemanha
azul de Berlim
azul da China
[l 3,141. Among those names, many relate to different provenances, several
are not obvious and require a brief explanation.
Flor de anil,
that is, indigo flower, a name
that suggests indigo, is cited as a synonym of Prussian blue both in one of the mentioned
sources 1141 and in others sources . In the case of
that is, mineral blue, not
only the equivalents in other languages are generally identified as Prussian blue, but also
that identification is clearly supported by one of the catalogues  and a treatise published
ilzul da China
was identified through the chemical composition presented in one
of the catalogues where it is mentioned  and
was considered an equivalent of
the French name
bleu de mer,
although some doubts remain regarding its meaning in one of
the works [l 31.
Cobalt blue is mentioned under designations such as
azul de cobalto
[15,22,23], while cerulean blue is mentioned as
Artificial ultramarine is named
azul de Franqa
. The English and the French equivalents to
azul de Fran~a
(French blue and
bleu de France
respectively) are synonym for artificial
ultramarine, but the French equivalent it was also applied to Prussian blue and, so, it was
not clear the meaning of the Portuguese name. However, because in the same paragraph of
Indigo and Indigo Carm~ne
. .... ..
Blue Al~zar~n Lake
Blue pigments in
the book where the name appears , a reference to "Prussian blue or Berlin blue" already
exists, ~t seems probably that
azztl de Fran~a
applies to artificial ultramarine, which is not
cited under another name and below that equivalence is considered
Finally, blue alizarin lake is named as
laque de garance bleu,
in French 1221.
In studied literature the name
in French, , that is, new blue, was also
found. However, since that name and the equivalents in other languages can apply to
several blue pigments, namely Prussian blue, cobalt blue and ultramarine blue. and the
Portuguese literature does not provide any clue, this pigment was not considered in the
is another name found , but. by similar reasons, we were
unable to identify it.
shows the date when each pigment is mentioned. Apart from azurite, which is only
mentioned in one treatise, it is possible to see that the other traditional pigments are well
represented throughout all the analysed literature and persist until the end of the studied
In relation to new pigments, Figure
reveals that Prussian blue is the only pigment cited
during the entire century. Cobalt blue is referred in 1844 and the others are mentioned only
in 1875 or after, although some of them were in the market several decades before that date.
For each pigment discovered in the 19'~ century, Figure 2 shows the time lapse between its
discovery and the first reference to it in the Portuguese literature, while Figure 3 depicts the
time lapse between its introduction in the European market and the first mention found in
the literature. They show a large delay in pigments' adoption. On average, 48 years pass
between the discovery of a pigment and its mention in Portuguese technical literature and
37 years between the beginning of its commercialization and that appearance in the
Prussian blue was not included in Figures 2 and 3 because a detailed research in the
technical literature from the 18Ih century was not done. Consequently, we cannot say when
this pigment has entered the Portuguese literature, although we found a reference to it in a
commercial work dated from about 1759 , that is, about 52 and 35 years after its
New blue pigments: discovery and first reference in Portuguese literature.
Blue Alizarln Lake
Blue Allzsrin Lake
New blue pigments: market introduction and first reference in Portuguese literature
discovery and commercialization, respectively. According to the author of this work from
the middle of the 181h century, Prussian blue "is generally estimated, as ultramarine, and
many give preference to it". He also says that "this colour costs much less than
In relation to the modern pigments, the analysed literature shows the availability of
materials from the French supplier
A collection of materials used by the painter
Rafael Bordalo Pinheiro, dated from about 1920, in addition to
shows the use of
other brands, namely
By the end of the 19" century, the references found show coexistence in Portugal of both
modem pigments and traditional pigments that, while important in the previous centuries,
meanwhile were dropped in other places. That coexistence, in general, has been observed
by scientific analysis of Portuguese paintings [32-361.
The persistence of traditional pigments like azurite and smalt is uncommon, as they had an
extremely reduced importance in the 19'~ century European paintings . In addition to
the large delay associated with the adoption of the new pigments, this can be interpreted as
a sign of traditionalism in a peripheral country.
If technical literature may be regarded as indirect proof of introduction and knowledge
about new materials, clear signs of persistence of traditional blue pigments throughout the
entire 19'~ century were found. In relation to the pigments developed during this century,
the first signs of innovation only appear, probably, in the mid 1840s and more consistently
in the last quarter of the 19" century.
However, by the end of the century the main new blue pigments were known and
international trade marks such as
were available for local painters. Consequently,
new synthetic materials were at disposal of artists and incorporated into their practices. The
results obtained suggest a more rapid circulation and adoption of new painting materials in
the last decades of the century and show the appearance of
more specialized technical
We thank Joana Lia Ferreira and Ricardo Caiado for the copy of the Favrel's catalogues.
thanks Fundaqlo para a Ciencia e a Tecnologia (FCT) for the grant
(SFRH/BD/36209/2007). This work is also supported by FCT through the project
materials of the image: pigments on Portuguese treatises from the Middle Ages to
[l] Ball, P,,
Bright Earth: Art and the invention of color.
Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Kirby, J.; Leighton, J.; Roy, A.,
Art in the Making. Impressionism.
National Gallery (1 990).
 Callen, A.,
The Techniques of the Impressionists.
London: Tiger Books International (1993).
 Callen, A.,
The Art of Impressionism. Painting technique.& the making of modernity.
London: Yale University Press (2000).
 Harley, R.
ArtistslPigments. c. 1600-1835. A study in engli;h documentary sources,
London: Archetype Publications (2001).
 Bordini, S.,
Materia e Imagen. Fuentes sobre las ticnicas de la pintura.
 Carlyle, L.,
The Artist's Assistant: Oil painting instruction manuals and handbooks in Britain
1800-1900 with reference to selected eighteenth-century sources.
Publications (200 1).
 Cmz, A. J.,
A cor e a substrincia: sobre alguns pigmentos mencionados em antigos tratados
portugueses de pintura
Revista do Instituto de Historia da Arte da
Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa, 6,2007, pp. 139-160.
 Monteiro, P. A.; Afonso, L.
U,, Fontes para o estudo dos pigmentos nu tratadistica portuguesa:
da Idade Media a 1850.
Revista do Instituto de Historia da Arte da Faculdade de Letras
de Lisboa, 6,2007, pp. 161-186.
[l01 Sampaio, D.C.,
DissertaqGo sobre as Cores Primitivas com hum Breve Tratado de ComposiqGo
ilrtljcial das Cores.
Lisboa: Regia Officina Typografica (1788).
Meio de se Fazer Pintor em Trds Horas.
Lisboa: Typographia Chalcographica, Typoplastica, e
Litteraria do Arco do Cego (1801).
[l21 Taborda, J. C.,
Regras da ilrte da Pintura.
Lisboa: Impr. Regia (1815).
[l31 Silva, R.
Elementos de Desenho e Pintura e Regras Gerais de Perspectiva.
Rio de Janeiro:
Eduardo e Henrique Laemmert (1 84 1).
Officios, Artes, e Manufacturas.
New edition entirely revised and
added by J.A.A.S. Lisboa: Typographia de Jose Baptista Morando (1841).
[l51 Lucio, J. B.,
CollecqHo de Receitas, e Segredos Particulares,
6 vols. Coimbra: Typographia de
M. Caetano da Silva (1 844-1845).
Diccionario Technico e Historic0 de Pintura, Esculptura, Architectura
[l71 Macedo, M,,
RestauraqHo de Quadros e Gravuras.
Lisboa: David Corazzi (1885).
[l81 Macedo, M,,
Desenho e Pintura.
Lisboa: David Corazzi (1886).
[l91 Macedo, M,,
Manual de Pintura.
Lisboa: Companhia Nacional Editora (1898).
L. T. C.,
vols. Lisboa: Typographia do Commercio (1898).
 Trindade, R.
Encyclopedia de Cento e L'inte e Quatro Receitas Colligidas e Traduzidas do
Porto: Joaquim Maria da Costa (1901).
 Varella, J.
Lisboa (about 1902)
 Varella, J. N.,
 Deroche, C.,
Art et Restauration. Peinture, arts graphiques, sculpture, ceranzique. Lexique
Paris: Universite de Paris I11 (1989).
Walsh, V.; Chaplin, T.; Siddall, R.,
Pigment Compendium. A dictionary of
Oxford: Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann (2004).
B., Glossaire des Materiaux de la Couleur et des Termes Techniques Employes duns
les Recettes de Couleurs Anciennes.
Turnhout: Brepols Publishers (2005).
Dictionnaire desMateriaux du Peintre.
Paris: ~ditions Belin (2005).
 Cruz, A. J.,
Pigmentos e corantes das obras de arte em Portugal, no inicio do seculo
segundo o tratado depintura de Filipe Nunes.
Conservar Patrimonio, 6,2007, pp. 39-51.
 Portugal, A. A.
DissertaqHo Chynzica sobre a Flor de Anil.
Lisboa: Officina de SimZo
Thaddeo Ferreira (1788).
 Corrca, C.,
Pintura e Fingidos.
Lisboa: Livraria Editora (1931).
 Sales, A. J.,
Diccionario do Commercio,
vol. 1, manuscript, Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal,
Lisboa, COD. 13 10425.
 Cabral, J. M. P,; Ribeiro, I.; Cruz, A. J., Caracteristicas tecnicas da pintura de Silva Porto, in
Silva Porto, 1850-1893. ExposiqHo Comemorativa do Centencirio da Sua Morte. Museu
Nacional de Soares dos Reis,
Lisboa: Instituto PortuguCs de Museus, 1993, pp. 495-514.
 Correia, A. M,; Clark, R. J.
Ribeiro, M. I.; Duarte, M.L.T.S.,
Pigment study by Raman
spectroscopy of 23 paintings by the Portuguese artist Henrique PousHo (1859-1884).
Raman Spectroscopy, 38,2007, pp. 1390-1405.
 Correia, A. M,; Oliveira,
J. V.; Clark, R. J.
Ribeiro, M. I.; Duarte, M.L.,
Characterization of PousHo Pigments and Extenders by Micro-X-ray D2ffractometry and
Infi.ared andRaman Microspectroscopy.
Analytical Chemistry, 80,2008, pp. 1482-1492.
Oliveira, M. J.; Carmo, A. M,, Alfredo Keil: a mestria com simplicidade, in
Keil. 1850-1907, Galeria de Pintura do Rei D. Luis.
Lisboa: IPPAR, 2001, pp. 245-271.
 Cruz, A. J.,
A pintura de Columbano segundo as suas caixas de tintas e pinceis.
Patrimonio, 1,2005, pp. 5-19.
 Kiihn, H., Terminal dates for paintings derived from pigment analysis, in Young,
of Science in Examination of Works of Art. Proceedings of the seminar, June 15-19,
Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1973, pp. 199-205.