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Orange Vermilion


Deep or pale, when well made and pure is of strict permanence, not
sensibly affected by light, time, or foul air; and eligible either in
water, oil, or fresco. For an enamel colour it is unsuited, being
dissipated at a red heat, a test that detects the presence of any
non-volatile adulterant. The best vermilion is a powerful vivid colour,
higher in tone than all reds, except the scarlet iodide of mercury. With
this it should not be compounded, but with other pigments it may safely
be used in admixture, as far as its own colour is concerned. Of great
body, weight, and opacity, it is a somewhat slow drier; and does not
retain that brilliancy when dry, which is peculiar to it while wet. A
want of transparency, and not drying well, prevent its being so
generally employed as would be desirable. Pictures should seem to be
painted with colour, not with pigment, the material being lost amid the
hues, tints, and shades; but with such compounds as vermilion, the art
of concealing art becomes difficult indeed. The pigment is apt to
predominate over the colour, and the painting to look mechanical rather
than natural: particles are apparent where hues alone should be seen,
and all sense of reality is destroyed. For these reasons, vermilion is a
dangerous pigment in unskilled hands, needing an intimate acquaintance
with its physical properties. The extreme weight or specific gravity of
the red renders it liable to sink and separate when compounded with
other colours; hence the heavier those mixed with it the better. Its
almost equal opacity, too, and habit of washing up, militate against its
use by young painters. With experience, however, and due care, this is
a serviceable colour; yielding with white most delicate flesh tints, and
in minute proportion with cobalt or French blue and white, tender aerial

Being cheaper than formerly, vermilion is not so much adulterated as it
once was; although, even now, brickdust, orpiment, &c. sometimes
sophisticate it. The knavish practices to which the pigment has been
subjected, have acquired it an ill-fame both with authors and artists.
Vermilion has been charged with fading in the light, and with being
blackened by impure air; but it was the custom to crimson the colour by
means of lake, or tone it to a scarlet hue by red lead. With pigments as
with persons, evil communications corrupt good manners--a motto that
might be written with advantage on every palette.


Resembles the preceding in all respects, except in being more scarlet in
its tint, and washing better; advantages which render it more useful
when the tone is required to be very bright and pure. At one time, the
Dutch alone in Europe possessed the secret of giving to vermilion a rich
scarlet colour.


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