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a fragment of the starry vault of heaven


I got a note from one of my arty suppliers tonight that Michael Harding — manufacturer of excellent handmade oil colors — is offering a genuine Afghan lapis lazuli oil paint. He’s not the only one — I knicked the photo from this article on genuine lapis watercolor — but there sure isn’t a lot of it out there.

You know all those illuminated manuscripts and Renaissance frescoes with the intense blue skies and amazingly blue saints’ robes? Lapis. Very dear stuff. Kings used to inventory pots of lapis paint in their treasuries and dole it out to painters after they were commissioned.

The common pigment ultramarine is a synthetic version invented in the early Nineteenth C — a much clearer and more powerful color, but lacking a certain sparkly je ne sais quoi.

Or so I’m told. I’ve never worked with the real thing.

I once splashed out $80 for a tube of Winsor and Newton’s genuine rose madder and got a tube of paint the color of bleeding gums and the consistency of snot. That learned me.

I see rose madder is down to a measley £8.80 now. And this here lapis stuff is suggested retail £71.57, but available for a modest £57 a tube.


Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: February 10, 2016, 11:13 pm

So…. we’re going to get a lapis lazuli garage door???


Comment from Ric Fan
Time: February 11, 2016, 12:12 am

I thought it was mined in Peru, too?

Saw a doc on Afghanistan where they showed it being mined. It’s gorgeous.

How about getting the mineral and mixing your own paint? Is that cheaper? You could have Uncle B do it like ScarJo in the Girl With the Pearl Earring. 🙂

Comment from Anonymous
Time: February 11, 2016, 12:58 am

Lapis is beautiful, all right!

But then, I like blue.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: February 11, 2016, 1:39 am

$406.25 for 225ml tube in Lapiz Lazulia/Afghan in Michael Harding Handmade Artists Oil Color, from an art supply house here in San Antonio. List is an eye-watering $625.

I followed all the links, Stoaty, and then I looked up David Hockney, and read about him. So it’s five lapis lazuli stars for you!

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: February 11, 2016, 2:02 am

Fra Angelico blue pigment extraction


Very interesting. I thought all you had to do is grind it up and mix with some sort of binder and medium. Guess not…

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: February 11, 2016, 2:11 am

Blue. History of Art in Three Colours


Saw this years ago. It’s pretty good.

Comment from mojo
Time: February 11, 2016, 8:37 pm

Red is easy, likewise yellow. Blues/greens, not so much. Any Phoenician purple around?

Comment from Steamboat McGoo
Time: February 11, 2016, 11:57 pm

It must cost a fortune to do the makeup for the Blue Men Group before their performances.

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