|Run by the Quakers until it closed in 1933, the Stabler-Leadbetter Apothecary Museum is a step back in time.|
Wherever I go, I collect samples of local earth. I scrape ancient statues into old film canisters with a pocketknife and keep them for my collection; the rainbow-colored sandstone of Petra is a particular favorite. I keep it in a box under my bed next to the bald eagle eggs. Relax, I'm joking. I ate those eggs ages ago.
|Swirls of color in sandstone, Petra, Jordan [Ed Trayes, photographer]|
|Companies like De Mairo Pigments still sell natural lapis lazuli pigment|
|The deep saturation of "Pompeiian Red" is due to the addition of fine granules to the pigment.|
Wax was applied to preserve and protect the finish.
Before this time, it was perfectly natural for artists to run down to their local Apothecary for the ingredients of their craft, but these were closer in spirit to shaman's huts than laboratories. Records of Apothecaries dating as far back as 1,500 BCE in ancient Egypt show over 800 recipes and 700 different drugs.(2) Not all of the ingredients were exotic in a "strange and alluring" way, some of them were just plain weird: By the time the Renaissance rolled around, these ingredients naturally expanded to include all sorts of herbs and ground minerals of every kind and color, soaps, cosmetics, gems such as amethyst and emeralds, oddities like “ground unicorn horn” (rhinoceros horn that came through Spain from Africa), tobacco (also through Spain in the fifteenth century), sulfur, mercury, the skin of roasted vipers, dried earthworms and human faeces (most prized being those of young children), bizarre elixirs and, of course, illegal poisons like arsenic and hemlock: Shakespeare’s Romeo picked up the poison he used to kill himself from an apothecary.
|Victorian Medicine Case [source]|
Combine this with the practice (for certain illustrators of Islamic illuminated texts) of making the finest brushes from hairs gathered from the inside throats of kittens, and it's easy to see why artists were traditionally looked at sideways. As for me, I'll stick to ordering from the catalog.
"Color," Victoria Finlay, Random House
"Colors: The Story of Dyes and Pigments," Abrams Discoveries
(2) “A History of Pharmaceutical Compounding. Secundum Artem ,” Allen, Jr, Lloyd, Volume 11 Number 3.