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Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments Hardcover – 16 Nov 2004


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"The author's note right at the start of this encyclopaedic work for art historians, conservators, and forensic specialists cites historic complaints that the names artists have recorded for the pigments used in their paintings, frescoes, etc. are notoriously unreliable. Hence, the hundreds of cross-references to help researches get to the pigment an artist used in a work despite what he or she may have called it. The reference also works from the standpoint of wishing to confirm a particular pigment by describing in detail its physical and chemical properties. This incomparable art reference for determining important matters of works of art goes beyond such scientific information to include as well historical notes on many of the pigments. The "Pigment Compendium" is an exhaustive, reliable guide to resolving important matters about works of art using pigments - matter which involve accurate dating, and in some cases also involve large sums of money for museums or private collectors. Every museum, art library, and serious art collector should have a copy."
The Midwest Book Review / Book Review Index

"We just bought the pigment compendium. What a wonderful and huge contribution! Congratulations!"
Barbara Berrie, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC


"Since buying a copy I am using the Dictionary of Historical Pigments book every day in my research into artists' recipe books. It has enabled me to decode a large number of nineteenth-century artists' paint recipes that were previously impenetrable even with such reference works as Carlyle's 'Artists Assistant', Harley's 'Artists Pigments', the historical insights of the Oxford English Dictionary, and the now 'period' definitions of Gettens & Stout. Even with the personal assistance of such authorities on nineteenth-century material as Dr Carlyle and the technical directors of Winsor and Newton, these
recipes had until now resisted interpretation.

One feature of particular and immense value is that it gives ALL possible definitions for a pigment name, assembled from an immense range of sources: often a variety of pigments were supplied under one umbrella name, and generally written and printed sources (both at the time and now) were
aware of only ONE possible interpretation (e.g. Italian Pink, Lemon Yellow.) Common and uncommon substitutes sold under certain pigment names are also noted (e.g. Naples Yellow, King's Yellow) as are common adulterants or modifiers (e.g. Chrome Yellow added to Strontian Yellow). Having the alternatives enables an informed choice of possible interpretation. The book is outstanding in that it recognizes the inconsistencies of mediaeval and renaissance pigment terminology, when several names relate to one pigment and VICE VERSA.

This historical overview presents the whole picture for the first time. Congratulations and gratitude are due to the team who have finally made sense of an immense body of material that is hard-to-find, obscure, apparently contradictory, and simply too large for any individual researcher to manage. This is a book that has been needed for years:
however did we manage without it?"
Mark Clarke, author of Art of all Colours

"The Pigment Compendium is the most comprehensive reference tool for historical pigments ever published. While the Dictionary is an encyclopaedic guide to the classification, sources and (where possible) uses of colourants in paints, the manual to Optical Microscopy navigates pigment chemistry, crystal structure and optical properties.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of both volumes is the range of publications to which the reader is referred. The authors have interwoven their commentary with references to nearly 2,000 manuscripts, treatises, books and articles, spanning ancient texts to recently published essays on the state of paint and coatings research. This literature review is invaluable to other researchers and one that is set to inspire fresh inquiry in many fields. Art historians, archaeologists, conservators, conservation scientists, geologists and forensic specialists, who represent the authors' target audience, are certain to mine this rich resource for years to come.

Overall, it is difficult to find fault with a publication that is so beautifully produced. Accolades already include a Bronze Prize in the 2004 L'Oreal Art and Science of Color competition and a nomination for the 2005 Anna Plowden Award for Research and Innovation in Conservation.

The challenges of editing the contributions of four authors to a single convention have led to inconsistencies that might have been avoided, but no editorial peculiarity could detract from the evident scholarship and dedication of the authors. They have brought order to colour nomenclature while highlighting important research on pigment discolouration, physical alteration and interaction with organic binding media. The Pigment Compendium is a timely addition to the literature on pigments, when knowledge of the nature and naming of specific colours is being increasingly applied to art-historical studies of pigment production, their trade and their range of uses in works of art of all historical periods."
Noelle Streeton, Object

About the Author

Painting conservator, with her own private conservation business. Also a visiting lecturer for Sotheby's Fine Art Course, Guildhall University, University of Northumbria, Croatian State Institute for Conservation and ICCROM.

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
major reference for art historians, curators, collectors... 26 Jan 2005
By Henry Berry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The authors' note right at the start of this encyclopedic work for art historians, conservators, and forensic specialists cites historic complaints that the names artists have recorded for the pigments they used in their paintings, frescoes, etc., are notoriously unreliable. Hence, the hundreds of cross-references to help researchers get to the pigment an artist used in a work despite what he or she may have called it. The reference also works from the standpoint of wishing to confirm a particular pigment by describing in detail its physical and chemical properties. This incomparable art reference for determining important matters of works of art goes beyond such scientific information to include as well historical notes on many of the pigments. The entry "Burnt Ochre" is an example of most of the thousands of entries: It begins with the general comment that the "phenomena that yellow ochre when heated converts to red ochre" has been known since pre-historic times. This is followed by a note that the fourth-century B. C. philosopher Theophrastus wrote a detailed description of the process of "producing burnt ochres." Then comes the physical and chemical information--"The process in action is the thermal transformation of goethite...to iron(III) oxide, whereby the goethite begins to dehydrate...," and so on for about 20 more lines. (The chemical equations in the quote are omitted in this review.) After this comes a few short paragraphs on comments later writers have made on burnt ochre, with the entry ending with remarks on the term for this pigment and related terms. The "Pigment Compendium" is an exhaustive, reliable guide to resolving important matters about works of art using pigments--matters which may involve accurate dating, and in some cases also involve large sums of money for museums or private collectors. Every museum, art library, and serious art collector should have a copy.
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