Posts Tagged ‘gum arabic’

Friday, February 8, 2013

Vegetable Gold

Crocus sativus Reseda luteola

Incomparably the most important yellow in medieval painting is the metal gold. Yellow pigments, however, played a significant part in the pageant of medieval technique. One of the most important services required of them was to imitate the appearance of gold. Another of their chief functions was to modify the qualities of greens, and to a less extent, of reds. Of all their uses, perhaps the least important was to represent yellow things.

—Daniel Thompson, The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting

The vegetable yellows used in medieval illumination were more readily prepared and much safer to use than mineral yellows like realgar or orpiment. Above, left: The brilliant red-orange stigmas of the autumn-blooming saffron crocus, used by medieval cooks as a colorant and a seasoning, were also exploited by illuminators. Right: Flower spikes of weld, the most ancient yellow dyestuff known. When processed as a pigment, this weedy biennial provided manuscript painters with a bright vegetable yellow.

A number of plants were exploited for coloring matter in the Middle Ages, whether to tint foodstuffs or to furnish dyes and pigments. By no means all, or even many, artist’s pigments were of vegetable origin; mineral colors were used for wall painting, where the more delicate and fugitive nature of vegetable colors was inappropriate. In book painting, a combination of vegetable and mineral colors was employed. The same plant that yielded a dye for textiles could be prepared as a pigment and used by illuminators. Several species produced a viable yellow, including weld, saffron, and celandine; as Daniel Thompson observes, these vegetable yellows served both to imitate the appearance of gold, and to modify greens and reds.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Putting in the Seed

Seeds of the cornflower

Seeds of the cornflower (Centaurea cyanus). Photograph by Esme Webb

How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed
On through the watching for that early birth
When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,
The sturdy seedling with arched body comes
Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

—Robert Frost, “Putting in the Seed”

For some, it’s planting fall bulbs and anticipating the explosion of spring color, for others it’s edging out a brand new perennial bed. For me, the most thrilling aspect of being a gardener is sowing a seed and watching it spring to life. It feels nothing short of miraculous every single time, and success depends on exactly the right conditions. This post is a small introduction to my first year as a gardener at the Cloisters, and my adventures in propagation so far.

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