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Don't lick the paintbrush
July 17, 2014 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Journal of Art in Society tells the story of the most unusual pigment: The life and death of Mummy Brown.

Two other pigments discussed by JAS: Egyptian Blue: the colour of technology; Prussian Blue and its partner in crime. Scientific American also has an occasional series on pigments: Pinch of Pigment.

Mummy byproducts previously on Metafilter: Mummia.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (13 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
and here I was thinking "oh, another lead-in-paint" type of story.. Though I think I might have preferred that to tincture of long dead Egyptian ..
posted by k5.user at 7:36 AM on July 17


I know this is not the point of the (very interesting, thanks) post, but: "Given that Europeans happily ate, drank and rubbed mummy on themselves[...]." Sometimes I wonder how we even survived, in spite of our own dumbass ideas, to make it into the 21st century. Seriously, who was the first guy who was like, "oh, dessicated ancient dead human of totally unknown provenance...I'd eat that." By comparison, painting with ground-up mummy seems completely reasonable.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to microwaving my plastic-wrapped, partially hydrogenated, artificially sweetened, genetically engineered, factory farmed, pasteurized processed food product dinner.
posted by sldownard at 7:46 AM on July 17 [8 favorites]


There is something exquisitely horrifying about the demand for "mummies":
Pettigrew goes on to recount how one merchant, when asked if the persons had died of any horrible disease, said that “he cared not whence they came, whether they were old or young, male or female, or of what disease they had died, so long as he could obtain them …. when embalmed no one could tell.” Sometimes even non-human remains were used. Mummified “children” sometimes turned out to be mummified ibises, and counterfeit mummies could also include the flesh of camels.
One can imagine the gasps of indignation. "Ibis? Ibis? I was specifically promised dust made from the desiccated remains of human children of the magical Egyptian variety! This is an outrage!"
posted by koeselitz at 7:56 AM on July 17 [6 favorites]


Guh. This is right up there with pulverizing the remains of the Roman Forum to make lime.

"Hey, its not like there will be many more centuries of people in the future who might appreciate these things. With the Second Coming just around the bend we might as well use it all up right now."

Our civilization suffers from the same shortsightedness today.
posted by General Tonic at 8:15 AM on July 17


It was also known as Caput Mortuum or Egyptian Brown.

The color is still called Caput Mortuum (Literal Latin = "dead head" or "worthless remains"). Although, it can refer to a purple/violet color as well as the more traditional "Egyptian brown" or "mummy brown."
posted by zakur at 8:31 AM on July 17


Could be worse.
posted by lothar at 9:05 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


(yes, I had the Radium Girls in mind when I wrote the title.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:19 AM on July 17 [1 favorite]


Seriously, who was the first guy who was like, "oh, dessicated ancient dead human of totally unknown provenance...I'd eat that."

If you really want to know, Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: the History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians by Richard Sugg has the complete explanation. Linkie.
posted by sukeban at 10:07 AM on July 17 [4 favorites]


One can only hope that these paintings are cursed.
posted by ckape at 10:46 AM on July 17


Sukeban, you are kind of my hero right now.
posted by sldownard at 12:36 PM on July 17


If your investigator is fighting an invisible Spawn of Yog-Sothoth on the Dunwich countryside and you run out of Powder of Ibn-Ghazi, why, just bring along some Mummy Brown paint to "color it in," so to speak.
posted by JHarris at 1:24 PM on July 17


Could be worse.
posted by lothar at 9:05 AM on July 17 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!]


Oh JEEEZUS.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 5:14 PM on July 17


"oh, dessicated ancient dead human of totally unknown provenance...I'd eat that."

While I remember: the Sawbones podcast (previously) touched on mummies as medicine in their episode on medical cannabalism: mummies are not a renewable resource.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:54 PM on July 17 [1 favorite]


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