JAIC 2002, Volume 41, Number 3, Article 2 (pp. 225 to 242)
JAIC online
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 2002, Volume 41, Number 3, Article 2 (pp. 225 to 242)

GREEN, YELLOW, AND RED PIGMENTS IN SOUTH AMERICAN PAINTING, 1610–1780

ALICIA SELDES, JOSÉ E. BURUCÚA, GABRIELA SIRACUSANO, MARTA S. MAIER, & GONZALO E. ABAD



4 THE ART OF MIXING

Andean artists mixed their pigments with white to obtain halftones and used the pure pigment, dark earths, or some other pigment of the same color and different degree of saturation to reinforce dark strokes. White lead or ceruse, a basic lead carbonate (PbCO3Pb(OH)2), was used for whites. It was extracted from Azángaro mines and was widely used by painters, despite its being very toxic, for hues and lights, as were orpiment, verdigris, and sandarac.1 Traditionally, carbon black and bone black were used for blacks. In the current set of paintings it is not apparent that black has been used. Painters added a greater proportion of white, ocher, or light earths for halftones and used pure white brush strokes for highlights indicating brightness or polish. As far as lights are concerned, the style conforms to classical treatises. Only for painting carnations did some artists mix basic dyes with blue or green to render volume (Mateo Pisarro's subtle brush stroke should be recalled here). Expert in the various properties of each pigment and well informed about its market value, painters used the most expensive ones to “bathe” an area previously painted with a coarser pigment, applying carmine onto a vermilion layer and red earths to create bright red cloths or onto a red lead layer for orange-colored cloths. Unique among these paintings, the Casabindo works—attributed to Pisarro's workshop—render the ancient firearms known as harquebusers using a finely ground vermilion dispersed in a transparent organic resin.

Samples obtained from Zapata's paintings exclusively show greens obtained by mixing indigo and orpiment, the resultant mixture sometimes applied onto a red earth. Considering the unsystematic sampling, the possibility of Zapata's using pure greens for some areas cannot be ignored, although it seems unlikely because of the relative scarcity of green in his palette, limited as it is to three colors (blue, red, and yellow or ocher) in the current series.

Once again, the case of Mateo Pisarro is quite different because he created a wide variety of greens, either by applying his so-called velature “smalt” on green backgrounds—as in the case of warrior angels at Casabindo (paintings 3.1.3 [fig. 2] and 3.1.4) or by using copper resinate, as in one of the Virgin of the Rosary of Pomata (painting 1.1.3 [see fig. 1]) from Casabindo's Parish Church, in the Coronation of the Virgin by the Holy Trinity (painting 1.1.1 [fig. 3], and in The Unfailing Hour (painting 1.1.4 [fig. 4]), both in Yavi.

Fig. 2. Attributed to the workshop of Mateo Pisarro, Archangel with Harquebus, 2, ca. 1700, oil on canvas, 126.5 × 85.0 cm, parish church, Casabindo, Jujuy Province, Argentina


Copyright © 2002 American Institution for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works