This section is from the book "Chromatography; Or, A Treatise On Colours And Pigments, And Of Their Powers In Painting", by George Field. Also available from Amazon: Chromatography, or A Treatise on Colours and Pigments, and of Their Powers in Painting.
White Lead, or ceruse, and other white oxides of lead, under the various denominations of London and Nottingham whites, &.C., Flake white, Crems or Cremnitz white, Roman and Venetian whiles, Blanc d'argent or Silver white, Sulphate of lead, Antwerp white, etc. The heaviest and whitest of these are the best, and in point of colour and body are superior to all other whites. They are all, when pure and properly applied in oil and varnish, safe and durable, and dry well without addition; but excess of oil discolours them, and in water-painting they are changeable even to blackness. They have also a destructive effect upon all vegetal lakes, except the rubial or madder lakes, and madder carmines; they are equally injurious to red and orange leads or minium, king's and patent yellow, massicot, gamboge, orpiments, etc.: but ultramarine, red and orange vermilions, yellow and orange chromes, madder colours, Sienna earth, Indian red, and all the ochres, compound with these whites with little or no injury. In oil painting white lead is essential in the ground, in dead colouring, in the formation of tints of all colours, and in scumbling, either alone or mixed with all other pigments. It is also the best local white when neutralized with ultramarine or black, and it is the true representative of light when warmed with Naples yellow, or orange vermilion, or both of these, according to the light; but lead colours must not be employed in water-colour painting, distemper, crayon painting, or fresco, nor with any pigment having an inflammable basis, or liable to be destroyed by fire: for with all such they occasion change of colour, either by becoming dark themselves, or by fading the colours they are mixed with. Cleanliness in using these pigments is necessary for health; for though not virulently poisonous, they are pernicious when taken into or imbibed by the pores or otherwise, as are all other pigments of which lead is the basis.
A fine natural white oxide, or carbonate of lead, would be a valuable acquisition, if found in abundance; and there occur in Cornwall specimens of a very beautiful carbonate of lead, of spicular form, brittle, soft, and purely white, which should be collected for the artist's use.
The following are the true characters of these whites according to our particular experience: -
The best of these do not differ in any essential particular mutually, nor from the white leads of other manufactories. The latter, being prepared from flake white, is generally the greyest of the two. The inferior white leads are adulterated with whitening or other earths, which injure them in body and brightness, dispose them to dry more slowly, to keep their place less firmly, and to discolour the oil with which they are applied. All the above are carbonates of lead, and liable to froth or bubble when used with aqueous, spirituous, or acid preparations.
Krems, Crems, Or Kremnitz White, is a white carbonate of lead, which do-rives its names from Crems, or Krems, in Austria, or Kremnitz in Hungaria, and is called also Vienna white, being brought from Vienna in cakes of a cubical form. Though highly reputed, it has no superiority over the best English white leads, and varies like them according to the degrees of care or success with which it has been prepared.
Flake White is an English white lead in form of scales or plates, sometimes grey on the surface. It takes its name from its figure, is equal or sometimes superior to Crems white, and is an oxidized carhonate of lead, not essentially differing from the best of the above. Other white leads seldom equal it in body, and, when levigated, it is called Body-white.
These are false appellations of a white lead, called also French white. It is hrought from Paris in the form of drops, is exquisitely white, but of less body than flake white, and has all the properties of the best white leads; but, being liable to the same changes, is unfit for general use as a water-colour, though good in oil or varnish.
Roman White is of the purest white colour, but differs from the former only in the warm flesh-colour of the external surface of the large square masses in which it is usually prepared.
Sulphate Of Lead is an exceedingly white precipitate from any solution of lead by sulphuric acid, much resembling the blanc d'ar-gent; and has, when well prepared, quite neutral, and thoroughly edulcorated or washed, most of the properties of the best white leads, but is rather inferior in body and permanence.
The above are the principal whites of lead; but there are many other whites used in painting, of which the following are the most worthy of attention: -