|Making Colour - The Yellow and Orange Room|
Find out more about the paintings in the Yellow and Orange Room in the exhibition on the exhibition website
One picture in particular grabbed my attention - because I learned something completely new to me - and this is it.
|Flowers in a Vase (c.1685) by Rachel Ruysch|
Oil on canvas, 57 x 43.5 cm
The painting is in the exhibition to highlight the source and components of a natural orange pigment called Realgar.
One of the themes of the exhibition is the identification of colours - such as purple and orange - which were typically created using mixes of other pigments because there was either no naturally occurring mineral of that colour or it was difficult to obtain.
In the case of Realgar, it is one of the few sources of a natural orange pigment. However it contains arsenic, which means that those very nice orange day lilies were actually painted with a poison and are highly toxic!
Realgar is a highly toxic arsenic sulfide and was the only pure orange pigment until modern chrome orange.Realgar is made of arsenic and sulphur and is also known as "ruby of arsenic". Its more common use is in rat poison.
Pigments through the ages
The fact that this rather nice orange pigment was toxic meant is wasn't used very much - although it can be seen in Venetian paintings and some Dutch flower paintings. Its use in painting died out in the 18th century.