Mummy Brown paint pigment was made of real mummies

Not all artists who used Mummy Brown knew they were using a color made up of people who had lived and died thousands of years before them…

Believe it or not, there used to be a color pigment known as Mummy Brown. To your surprise — or revulsion — the pigment production relied on using real mummies, both human and feline, dug out from ancient Egyptian sites. Other names used for the color included Caput motum and Egyptian brown.

For a few centuries, this usage of mummies persisted; Mummy Brown was a well-loved pigment among a number of pre-Raphaelite painters. Tubes containing the color were being sold as recently as the 1960s.

To produce the paint, ground-up remains of mummies were mixed with white pitch and myrrh, according to the Journal of Art in Society. The result was an alluring, transparent brown hue, something between raw and burnt umber tone.

(Martin Drolling’s Interior of a Kitchen made extensive use of mummy brown)

Although it was prone to fading, a number of painters including Eugène Delacroix, Martin Drolling, and Edward Burnes were keen on painting with it. Little did they know they were “resurrecting” the dead in their art studios along the way.

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