What's in the paint?

Debi

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Was This Masterpiece Painted With Ground Mummy?

Was This Masterpiece Painted With Ground Mummy?

For centuries, European artists adorned their canvases with pigment made from the pulverized remains of ancient Egyptians.

Eugene Delacroix's most famous painting, "Liberty Leading the People," hangs in a revered spot in Paris' Louvre Museum. Inspired by the 1830 Paris Uprising, it has been held up as an embodiment of the French national ethos, and most recently as a justification for the country's controversial burkini ban.

But "Liberty Leading the People" may also have been literally painted with people.

From at least the 16th century until as late as the early 1900s, a pigment made from mummified human remains appeared on the palettes of European artists, including Delacroix. Painters prized "mummy brown" for its rich, transparent shade. As a result, an unknown number of ancient Egyptians are spending their afterlife on art canvases, unwittingly admired in museum galleries around the world.

Mummies for Medicine and Entertainment

The use of mummy as a pigment most likely stemmed from an even more unusual use—as medicine. From the early medieval period, Europeans were ingesting and applying preparations of mummy to cure everything from epilepsy to stomach ailments. It's unclear whether Egyptian mummies were prized for the mistaken belief that they contained bitumen (the Arabic word for the sticky organic substance, which was also believed to have medicinal value, is mumiya), or whether Europeans believed that the preserved remains contained otherworldly powers.

What is clear to researchers is that early artist pigments were derived from medicines at the time, and were commonly sold alongside them in European apothecaries. And just as mummy was waning in popularity as a medical treatment, Napoleon's invasion of Egypt at the end of the 18th century unleashed a new wave of Egyptomania across the Continent.

Tourists brought entire mummies home to display in their living rooms, and mummy unwrapping parties became popular. Despite prohibitions against their removal, boatloads of mummies—both human and animal—were brought over from Egypt to serve as fuel for steam engines and fertilizer for crops, and as art supplies.

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Talk about living art! :eek:
 
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Lynne

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Artists will do anything to accomplish bring their thoughts to life. This proves it :eek:. Our fasination with old things seems to be part of who we are. I think the bodies should be left at rest , or at least replaced after being examined
 
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