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.
We have endeavoured to shew, under their proper heads, how black is related to, and how it affects each colour individually in painting. Black, white, red, blue, green, purple, and brown, are the colours of the poet, with whom gold supplies the place of yellow and orange, as it does also in some old paintings and illuminatings; but, a tinge of melancholy being essential to pathos, black is more employed for effect in eloquence and poetry than all the other colours put together; of which, and also of various relations of this colour, the following may serve as illustrations: -
"Black is the badge of hell, The hue of dungeons and the scowl of night."
"Not the black gates of Hades are to me More hostile or more hateful, than the man Whose tongue holds no communion with his heart." Sydenham, after Homer.
"Newt Jilted to the night,---
Black, fearful, comfortless, and horrible"
ShaksperE. "The blacke and doleful ebonie."
"Hence, loathed Melancholy,
Of Cerberus anblakest Midnight born,
In Stygian cave forlorn, 'Mongst horrid shapes, and shrieks, and sights unholy.
Find out some uncouth cell, Where brooding Darkness spreads his jealous wings. And the night-raven sings;
There, under ebon, shades, and low-brow'd rocks. As ragged as thy locks,
In dark Cimmerian desert ever dwell."
Milton has here employed black with true artistic feeling to throw up the light of his L'Allegro; and Shakspere has employed it in the following, quite in the technical language of painting:__
"Tis bo strange, That, though the truth of it stands off as grass As while from black, my eyes will scarcely see it."
"Most preposterous event, that drawelh
From my mow-while pen the sable-colour'd ink."
"Youth no lest becomes The light and careless livery that it wears, Than settled age hit sables and his weeds, Importing health and grateness."
Idem: Hamlet, Act iv. Sc 7.
"'Tis not your inky brows, your black silk hair, Your bugle eye-balls, nor your cheek of cream. That can entamc my spirits to your worship,"
"We mourn in black, why mourn we not in blood?" Idem.
" The splendid fortune and the beauteous face
(Themselves confess it, and their sires bemoan) Too soon are caught by srarles and by lace; The sons of science shine in black alone."
"And sullen Moloch, tied, I tilth left in shadows dread
His burning idol, all of blackest hue; In vain with cymbals' ring They call the grisly king,
In dismal dance about the furnace blue."
Milton: The Hymn.
"Come, thick Night, And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell; That my keen knife see not the wound it makes. Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark. To cry, Hold I Hold!"
" How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags? " Idem.
"O'erlaid with black, staid Wisdom's hue."
"'Tis not alone my inky cloak, good mother. Nor customary suits of solemn black, .... Together with all forma, mode, shows of grief, That can denote me truly . . But I have that within which passeth show."
Shakspere: Hamlet, Act i. Sc.2.
" Arise, black vengeance, from thy hollow cell."
Idem: Othello, Act iii. Sc. 3.
"Here, while the proud their long-drawn pomps display. There the black gibbet glooms beside the way."
Goldsmith. " She hath abated me of half my train; Looh'd black upon me; struck me with her tongue, Most serpent-like, upon the very heart."
Shakspere: King Lear, Act ii. Sc. A.
Black is to be regarded as a compound of all other colours, and the best blacks and neutrals of the painter are those formed with colours of sufficient power and transparency upon the palette; but most of the black pigments in use are produced by charring, and owe their colour to the carbon they contain: such are Ivory and Bone blacks, Lamp black, Blue black, Frankfort black, etc. The three first are most in use, and vary according to their modes of preparation or burning; yet fine Frankfort black, though principally confined to the use of the engraver and printer, is often preferable to the others.
Native or mineral blacks are heavy and opaque, but dry well.
Some of the old masters arc said to have employed a black lake of great beauty, - and coloured lakes calcined in close vessels become such; or perhaps they employed the sediment of the dyer's vat, which Pliny informs us was used by the an-tients, and which nevertheless could neither have been a durable nor eligible pigment, more especially in distemper and fresco. It is probable, also, that this black lake may have been a synthetic black, composed of primary or secondary transparent colours, or by addition of coloured lakes to other blacks, as the case might require. Prussian blue and burnt lake afford a powerful black; and compound blacks, in which transparent pigments are employed, will generally go deeper and harmonize better with other colours than any original black pigment alone: hence lakes and deep blues, added to the common blacks, greatly increase their clearness and intensity; and ultramarine has evidently been employed in mixture and glazing of the fine blacks of some old pictures.
Mineral black above, combined with iron and alluvial clay. It is found in most countries, and should be washed and exposed to the atmosphere before it is used. Sea-coal, and innumerable black mineral substances, have been and may be employed as succedanea for the more perfect blacks, when the latter are not procurable, which rarely happens.