This stuff is precious, I knew that, but toxic too as I heard today on BBC Radio 4 (report here). Today I have been applying it to vellum for a fine illumination commission. Lapis (ultramarine - 'beyond the sea blue') comes from modern day Afghanistan, which as everyone should know is located just south of the Garden of Eden on the medieval world map. Now I hear that the lapis mines are being stripped and the millions raised disappearing into the pockets of corrupt officials and the Taliban. Other deposits of lapis have been found since ancient times, in Chile I believe, but the stone is inferior. There is nothing to replace that extraordinary blue: azurite is beautiful but very green in tone. I suspect when one scratches the surface there is going to be nothing particularly wholesome about the way any pigment is extracted or manufactured, but for now I shall be refraining from smearing lapis all over the icons.
The view from my desk
Current work, places and events, art travel, and interesting snippets about Christian icons, medieval art, manuscript illumination, egg tempera , gilding, technique and materials.