Making Verdigris Paint

Posted by on July 2, 2015 in Blog, Materials and Techniques | 0 comments

Making Verdigris Paint

It’s been a long time coming but I finally got round to turning my home-grown verdigris pigment into paint.

Cennino Cennini, writing in fifteenth century Florence, says about verdigris: ‘It is very green by itself. And is manufactured by alchemy, from copper and vinegar’. Which is just what I did. You can see the start of this experiment here.

But then came Cennini’s phrase: ‘It is beautiful, but it does not last’. However, painters like Van Eyck must have found a way to make it last, because it has remained green rather than turning brown on paintings like The Arnolfini Portrait.


Verdigris in the Arnolfini Marriage


I have been told that if the verdigris is cooked until it bubbles with a balsam it retains its colour, although I haven’t, as yet, found the primary source to confirm this. Anyway, with some trepidation in view of the label on my Venetian Turpentine…

Verdigris 3

                              …I decided it was time to heat it. I did do it in the garden, though, just in case the whole thing went up in flames!

Verdigris 4

As I began to heat the mixture of verdigris and turpentine, the pigment started to turn green

Making verdigris paint

and eventually the whole lot was a bubbling, crackling green liquid.

Making verdigris pigment by Toni Watts

Here’s the finished result – a richly coloured paint for glazing.

Making verdigris paint by Toni Watts


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