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Caput Mortum: The Color of Worthless Remains
Caput Mortum is a deep, rich purple-brown pigment that has been used by artists for centuries. It is made from a mixture of red iron oxide and black pigment, and it is known for its intense color and its ability to create a sense of drama and mystery.
The name Caput Mortum comes from the Latin phrase for “head of the dead,” and it is thought that the color was given this name because of its dark, somber appearance. However, its true origin is that it was made out of ground-up mummies. Caput Mortum was first used by artists in the 16th century, and it was a popular color among Dutch and Flemish painters, who used it to create realistic and atmospheric paintings.
For alchemists, the phrase “caput mortuum” referred to the leftover residue at the bottom of a heating flask after the “nobler” elements of a solution had sublimated. These early medieval pseudo-scientists created an easy way to label to their worthless remains—three dots enclosed in a circle, a minimalist approximation of a human skull. Caput mortuum was a metaphor for “how the soul was thought to ascent into the aether after death, leaving the body’s material remains behind,” writes art historian Christopher Volpe on his blog (in which he goes on to praise Old Holland’s lavender-leaning variation of the color).
In the 19th century, Caput Mortum was used by Romantic painters, who were drawn to its dark, mysterious qualities. Caput Mortum can be seen in many famous paintings, including The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn, The Jewish Bride by Rembrandt van Rijn, and Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer.
Today, Caput Mortum is still a popular color among artists. It is a versatile color that can be used to create a variety of effects. It can be used to create dark, dramatic shadows, or it can be used to add depth and richness to a painting. Caput Mortum can also be used to create a variety of neutral tones.
If you are looking for a color that can add drama and mystery to your paintings, Caput Mortum is a great choice. It is a versatile color that can be used to create a variety of effects.
Here are some tips for using Caput Motum:
Start with a small amount of paint and add more as needed. Caput Mortum is a very opaque color, so it is easy to over-blend.
Mix Caput Mortum with other colors to create new shades. For example, you can mix Caput Mortum with white to create a lighter purple-brown, or you can mix it with black to create a darker purple-brown.
Caput Mortum can be used to create a variety of effects. It can be used to create dark, dramatic shadows, or it can be used to add depth and richness to a painting.
Here are some examples of paintings that use Caput Mortum:
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer
The Night Watch by Rembrandt van Rijn
Even though this color has a dark origin, Caput Mortum is a versatile and beautiful color that can be used to create a variety of effects. It is a great choice for artists who want to add depth, richness, and drama to their paintings.