No, not what you’re thinking.
Today was a waste as far as painting goes; a bunch of errands and appointments ganged up on me and I didn’t get any time in the studio. I did, however, manage to stop in at my local art supply store to pick up some necessaries. While there I looked over the clearance rack, and splurged on a tube of Caput Mortuum.
This has got to be one of the coolest pigment names… literally “dead head”. It’s a rich, purplish iron oxide pigment whose name apparently derives from alchemical treatises. The pigment was one of the by-products from certain reactions (in one sense alchemy is essentially proto-chemistry). As it was considered a useless residue, it became associated with decline and decay. The texts symbolized this with a stylized skull, hence, a Dead Head. Fascinating stuff, alchemy.
Anyway, the tube I picked up is the Sennelier formulation; a convenience mixture of iron oxide, ultramarine blue, and dioxazine violet. I have been looking for a good purple-brown, so I’ll give it a shot, even though I am worried about how the dioxazine will behave (it’s such a heavy stainer).
Oh, by the way… THE coolest pigment name? Mummy. Guess what that’s all about…