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Alphabe Thursday G is for Green

January 2, 2014

2012-07-23 17.55.57

Green, I learned as child and enjoyed more recently comes from mixing yellow with blue.  The Medieval illuminators used yellow from the saffron plant, crocus combined with azurite to make green. Also, Cennino says that a blend of saffron and verdigris, brought to Germany from Spain since Roman times, produces the most ‘perfect green grass colour imaginable’.

Unfortunately, Verdigris although very popular was not always well behaved. Sometimes the organic acids used to make it would attack the paper or parchment, leaving neat holes, looking as if the painting had been eaten by ‘green-loving insects’.

So it soon became important to find a more kindly alternative; so in the 14th century two new greens became available, sap  and iris.

Sap green was made from the juice of the blackthorn berries; this was already thick enough to be used without a binder.  Also, if some gum is added it can used as a water colour and still available to this day.   

Iris green is made from the juice of the iris flower mixed with alum to thicken it.  

Both these greens like folium and weld,  are not mined from the ground but grew in the meadows and more easily available to monks and those who were  illuminating manuscripts.  

Heraclius who was a Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641 and responsible for introducing Greek as the Eastern Empire’s official language said :-

‘He who wishes to convert flowers into various colours which, for the purpose of writing, as the page of the book demands, must wander over the cornfields early in the morning, and he will find various flowers fresh sprung up’.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. January 2, 2014 5:32 pm

    That was very interesting thank you

  2. January 2, 2014 5:33 pm

    I loved that information thank you

  3. January 2, 2014 6:36 pm

    too bad those very early books were eaten by the acids from the verdigris. Glad they changed their mixtures! Very interested! Happy New Years. {:-Deb

    • January 2, 2014 6:56 pm

      However I am sure those early book writers would have never believed centuries later they would render so much joy!!

  4. Karen S. permalink
    January 3, 2014 3:17 pm

    Happy new year and here’s to more interesting posts for the new year.

  5. January 3, 2014 9:51 pm

    Very cool and informative. So much history behind green. I love green!

  6. January 16, 2014 2:40 am

    Green is such a gorgeous color…

    You really gathered a lot of history on its origins!

    Great post for the letter “G”…

    Thanks for linking.


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