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Alphabe Thursday … A is for Azure

November 21, 2013

2013-11-16 11.27.03

A is for Azure blue. As a child I remember my first paint box with little blocks of colour and their mysterious names like burnt sienna, lamp black, cadmium red or umber. Never getting the complete answers to my questions; often a shrug or ‘ask your teacher’.

I also wondered about the sky was not always blue? I have learned since that the sky is not a colour; but chemicals moving about reflecting light and ‘being’ colour.  

However, my brain can absorb no more and I have wandered away from my paint box and painting the sky.  Not with sky blue but  with Ultramarine or Azurite.  

But then I learn that ultramarine, with the sound of the sea  also is not a colour but a term used to describe all goods but mostly exotic from ‘beyond the sea’ in landlocked Afghanistan.  It comes from lapis lazuli, a stone of bright blue unlike azurite that is less bright and often used as a cheaper alternative.  From what I understand Azurite is not a stone but a mineral produced by weathering of copper ore deposits

The Lapis Lazuli is pounded to a powder very carefully so the dust doesn’t ‘go off; I imagine to where dust goes! Once it has been pounded, sieved and pounded again it is mixed with pine rosin, gum mastic and wax  all carefully measured; the procedure according to  Cennino d’Andrea Cennini in the Craftsman’s handbook  is long and complicated.  

While on the subject of azure I have often wondered why the Virgin Mary in paintings and frescos is often wearing a blue gown or dress? I have since discovered that this is not entirely true; she is inclined to wear red at times.  In Russian icons she wore red, also in Holland scarlet cloth was the most expensive and befitting the virgin mother.  In the 7th seventh century the Byzantine artists favoured purple because it was the most expensive dye.  Sometimes we are told she wore white and black .

It is suggested by Victoria Finlay, when considering colour symbolism, red is for birth, purple perhaps mystery, blue maybe the colour of heaven, white shows her innocence and black for her coming grief.   

It seems likely though that when in the thirteenth century; ultramarine arrived in Italy as the most expensive colour available, it should be used for the most precious symbol of faith.  

I cannot tell what colour was used for my little early 20th century medicine bottles but I would like to think they are azure blue.

Further reading

Colour by Victoria Finlay

The Craftsman’s Handbook by Cennino d’Andrea Cennini

alphabet thursday

18 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2013 10:52 am

    what a lovely post thank you I love shades of blue

  2. November 21, 2013 11:25 am

    Hmm, I learned something new today and I really like those old medicine bottles – very antique-ish!
    Amazing Grace by Curious as a Cathy

  3. November 21, 2013 2:08 pm

    I wonder why most of our bottle today are just clear…how boring is that? Those are such beautiful colors!

  4. November 21, 2013 3:35 pm

    Beautiful photography and lovely post for A ~ love the color azure ~ carol, xxx

  5. November 21, 2013 11:25 pm

    Lovely post♪ Enjoyed the bit of history and your bottle collection…Have a wonder filled week!

  6. Sarah ~ Magnolia Surprise permalink
    November 21, 2013 11:40 pm

    Interesting post! I always thought of the darker blue of your bottles as cobalt blue!

  7. November 22, 2013 1:07 am

    Probably my favorite shade of blue! I have a tendency of calling it ‘electric blue’.

  8. November 22, 2013 2:44 am

    Interesting info, and I love the intense colors of the bottles.

  9. November 26, 2013 12:23 pm

    I love that color of blue, too.

    And I love the word ultramarine!

    This was such an amazing post for the letter A.

    It actually brought back a lot of memories for me of a farm I once owned. I always put cobalt blue and amber bottles on the deep, white-painted windowsills.

    Oh, what a show when the sun shone through.

    Thank you for linking!

    I’m thankful you’re part of our Alphabe-Thursday community.


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