What is it made of? Realgar is a sulphide of arsenic, a naturally occurring mineral often found with the pigment orpiment (see Yellow). It is also called ruby sulfur for its reddish color.
Where does it come from? Pliny the Elder suggested that realgar was found in the Red Sea region and Vitruvius stated that the best realgar came from Pontus, a region along the southern coast of the Black Sea in modern-day Turkey. There was also a deposit near Puteoli (modern Pozzuoli) in southern Italy. Realgar may have been a by-product of gold and silver mining. In the 1st century BCE, a ship carrying a cargo of amphora foundered off the southern coast of France near Marseille. Found among the wreckage were ingots of Egyptian blue and realgar. The ship may have originated at Pozzuoli, a known center for pigment production.
How is it made? Realgar pigment is produced by grinding and separating the mineral into a fine, even powder.
Fun fact! The name “realgar” comes from the Arabic رهج الغار (rahj al-gar), “powder of the mine.” Pliny also said that this toxic pigment, when mixed with food and turpentine, was an effective cure for a cough.
What is it made of? This was a manufactured lead oxide mineral. Red lead has an orange-red quality, and in antiquity was often confused with realgar.
Where does it come from? Red lead production has been linked to the silver mines at Rio Tinto and other locations in Roman Spain.
How is it made? This pigment was made by heating litharge, or lead white, to a temperature of about 480 degrees Celsius.
Fun fact! In Roman Egypt a number of mummies were wrapped in shrouds that were painted with red lead. Red lead is toxic and served as an antiseptic against organisms that would have caused the mummy to decay.
What is it made of? Rose madder dye and pigment are derived from the root of the Rubia tinctorum plant, a relative of coffee and gardenias. It is also known as dyer’s madder.
Where does it come from? In antiquity, these plants were grown in India, the Middle East, and Egypt, but they were used throughout the Mediterranean region.
How is it made? To produce the dye, madder roots were steamed in pits, then dried and crushed in pounding mills. Like indigo and Tyrian purple, rose madder could also be used as a pigment by chemically adhering the dye to a metallic solid, such as alum.