“Il Libro dell’Arte” or “The Craftsman’s Handbook” (Translation by D. V. Thompson,. Pages 36-37). 15th Century handbook for artists.
Ultramarine blue is a color illustrious, beautiful, and most perfect beyond all other colors; one could not say anything about it, or do anything with it, that its quality would not still surpass. And, because of its excellence, I want to discuss it at length, and to show you in detail how it is made. And pay close attention to this, for you will gain great honor and service from it. And let some of that color, combined with gold, which adorns all the works of our profession, whether on wall or on panel, shine forth in every object.
To begin with, get some lapis lazuli. And if you want to recognize the good stone, chose that which you see is the richest in blue color, because it is all mixed like ashes. That which contains the least of this ash is the best. But see that it is not azurite stone, which looks lovely to the eye, and resembles an enamel. Pound it into a bronze mortar, covered up, so that it may not go off in dust; then put it on your porphyry slab, and work it up without water. Then take a covered sieve such as druggists use for sifting drugs; and sift it and sift it, and pound it again as you find necessary. And bear in mind that the more finely you work it up, the finer the blue will come out, but not so beautifully violet in color (Non si bello violante. The translation as “violet”, or better, “inclining toward violet”). To be continued tomorrow…
On a personal note, I love this color! It is a breathtaking color with an incredible amount of depth. Ultramarine is one of those colors that beckons to be touched.
A friend recently shared a photo from an art supply store in Bonn, Germany. He noted that the shop’s most expense pigment was a ground blue, costing 100 Euros per gram.
Below are examples of lapis lazuli and the grey ash veins that run through many stones.
An example of ground lapis lazuli, creating Ultramarine Blue pigment
The use of Ultramarine Blue in a Hell Scene for the Scottish Rite in Pasadena, California.
The use of Ultramarine Blue in a Constellation Drop (Faith, Hope, and Charity) for the Scottish Rite in Danville, Virginia.