Chromatopia: An Illustrated History of Colour

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Did you know that the Egyptians created the first synthetic color and used it to create the famous blue crown of Queen Nefertiti? Or that the noblest purple comes from a predatory sea snail? In the Roman Empire, hundreds of thousands of snails had to be sacrificed to produce a single ounce of dye. Throughout history, pigments have been made from deadly metals, poisonous minerals, urine, cow dung, and even crushed insects. From grinding down beetles and burning animal bones to alchemy and pure luck, Chromatopia reveals the origin stories behind over fifty of history’s most vivid color pigments.

Featuring informative and detailed color histories, a section on working with monochromatic colour, and “recipes” for paint-making, Chromatopia provides colour enthusiasts with an eclectic story of how synthetic colors came to be. Red lead, for example, was invented by the ancient Greeks by roasting white lead, and it became the dominant red in medieval painting.

Spanning from the ancient world to modern leaps in technology, and vibrantly illustrated throughout, this book will add a little chroma to anyone’s understanding of the history of colors.

240 pages
Hardcover 
Dimensions: 6.8 in x 9 in x 1 in 


This product is available online and through the Somerset House Shop. 

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