4 oz. jar (118 ml)
A reddish brown pigment containing over 35% hematite. We prepare this family of pigments from sources in Russia. We could not find an equivalent for it in Europe or the Western Hemisphere. However, it is known among artists in Russia as "mummy," because it resembles the pigment highly prized by artists of the 18th and 19th centuries. The historical pigment, which had its source in such organic matter as bitumen and asphaltum, was a fugitive color. It got its name from grisly rumors that the pigment was made by grinding Egyptian mummies. The mummy that we make is not a mineral species, but a natural mixture of minerals consisting of kaolin, quartz, goethite and hematite. The latter two minerals determine the color of mummy, while the remaining ingredients are inert substances that can vary the opacity or tinting strength of the pigment. The color of mummy can vary from yellow to red and finally to dark violet. The latter color is usually known as Mummy Violet. The total content of goethite and hematite usually does not exceed 60% in mummy. The more hematite in relation to goethite the redder the mummy. A larger proportion of goethite strengthens the pigment in the yellow spectrum.
Origin and History of Use
Egyptian mummies were at one time literally available by the truckload. Originally reserved for the upper classes, mummification eventually became popular with the proletariat; by modern times, mummies numbered in the millions. A single burial ground discovered not long ago is thought to contain 10,000. During medieval times they were ground into powder and used as medicine. Later in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this powder was used as a paint pigment called "mummy brown" (also known as "Egyptian brown"), a practice that persisted, according to some sources, into the early 20th century. Ralph Mayer says that its use was suddenly discontinued in the 19th century when the grisly composition became generally known to artists [The Artist's Handbook, p. 52]. A London colorman informed A. H. Church that he could satisfy the demands of his customers for twenty years from one Egyptian mummy [The Chemistry of Paints and Painting, p. 236]. Ground mummies made a pigment of an undefined organic composition due to the decomposition of the mummy and the various resins that covered them. It was used primarily in watercolor and oil painting techniques. Mummy brown is a deep brown color, nearly intermediate in tint between burnt umber and raw umber. A pigment of this color was also prepared from bitumen or asphaltum. In Russia, the term "mummy" has been applied to mineral pigments that exhibited similar characteristics to this pigment. Since we derive our pigment from Russia we have maintained the use of its name.
Our mummy pigments are not organic in composition but consist entirely of natural minerals from deposits in the Kaluzhskaya province of Russia. The various mummy pigments vary from transparent to opaque, with medium to good hiding power and medium to excellent tinting strength. The largest deposits of this iron-rich mineral are found in the Bechesyn-Bermamytskoye deposit on the Stavropol border and Shilkinskoye deposit in the Chitinskaya province of Russia.
Permanence and Compatibility
Our mummy is composed of iron oxide, calcium carbonate, kaolin, and silica, which are considered to be quite permanent and stable in mixtures with all other pigments. It is very good in oils, and excellent in all aqueous mediums, such as egg tempera, casein, and gum arabic (watercolor). It performs well in wax (encaustic) and fresco techniques.
Oil Absorption and Grinding
No data has been published on the oil absorption properties of mummy.
Mummy is not considered toxic but care should be used in handling the dry powder pigment to avoid inhaling the dust.
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