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.
Lake, a name derived from the lac or lacca of India, is the cognomen of a variety of transparent red and other coloured pigments of great beauty, prepared for the most part by precipitating coloured tinctures of dyeing drugs upon alumine and other earths, etc. The lakes are hence a numerous class of pigments, both with respect to the variety of their appellations and the substances from which they are prepared. The colouring matter of common lake is Brazil wood, which affords a very fugitive colour. Superior red lakes are prepared from cochineal, lac, and kermes; but the best of all are those prepared from the root of the rttbia tinctoria, or madder plant. Of the various red lakes the following are the principal: -
These pigments are of various colours, of which we shall speak at present of the red or rose colours only; which have obtained, from their material, their hues, or their inventor, the various names of rose rubiate, rose madder, pink madder, and Field's lakes.
The pigments formerly called madder lakes were brick-reds of dull ochrous hues; but for many years past these lakes have been prepared perfectly transparent, and literally as beautiful and pure in colour as the rose;* qualities in which they are unrivalled by the lakes and carmine of cochineal. The rose colours of madder have justly been considered as supplying a desideratum, and as the most valuable acquisition of the palette in modern times, since perfectly permanent transparent reds and rose colours were previously unknown to the art of painting.
* Of this we have ample evidence in the exquisite flowers of Hewlett, Bartholomew. Sintzenich, and others.
These pigments are of hues warm or cool, from pure pink to the deepest rose colour; - they afford the purest and truest carnation colours known; - form permanent tints with white lead; and their transparency renders them perfect glazing or finishing colours. They are not liable to change by the action of either light or impure air, or by mixture with other pigments; but when not thoroughly edulcorated they are, in common with all lakes, tardy dryers in oil, the best remedy for which is the addition of a small portion of japanner's gold-size: or, as they are too beautiful and require saddening for the general uses of the painter, the addition of manganese brown, cap-pagh brown, or of burnt umber, as was the practice of the Venetian painters in the using of lake, adds to their powers and improves their drying in oils.
Notwithstanding they are equally beautiful and durable as water-colours, they do not work therein with the entire fulness and facility of cochineal lakes: when, therefore, permanence is of no consideration, the latter may still be preferred; but in those works in which the hues and tints of nature are to be imitated with pure effect and permanence, the rose colours of madder are become indispensable, and their powers in these respects have been established by experience from the palettes of our first masters during upwards of a quarter of a century. With respect to the future, too, there is this advantage attending these pigments, that they have naturally the peculiar quality of ultramarine, of improving in hue by time - their tendency being to their own specific prismatic red colour.
These pigments have been imitated on the Continent with various success, and in many instances by the lakes of lac, cochineal, and car-thamus. The best we have seen is the laque de garance, the brightest of which was evidently tinged by the rouge of safflower, and proved inferior in durability to the genuine lake of madder. As, however, the colours of safflower, cochineal, and lac, are soluble in liquid ammonia and alkalies in general, which the true madder lakes or rubiates are not, the latter may be as easily tested by an alkali as ultramarine is by an acid; and if pure ammonia do not extract colour from a lake so tested, we may with general certainty pronounce it to be a true madder lake. See Madtler Carmine, 9.
Liquid Rubiate, Or Liquid Madder Lake, is a concentrated tincture of madder of the most beautiful and perfect rose colour and transparency. It is used as a water-colour only in its simple state diluted with pure water, with or without gum; it dries in oil by acting as a dryer to the oil. Mixed or ground with all other madder colours with or without gum, it forms combinations which work freely in simple water, and produce the most beautiful and permanent effects. The red of the definitive scale, page 39, is of the pigments 1 and 2 combined. Liquid rubiate affords also a fine red ink, and is a durable stain which bears washing, for marking, painting, or printing on cotton or linen cloth, etc, and is peculiarly suited to the tinting of maps and charts permanently.
Scarlet Lake is prepared in form of drops from cochineal, and is of a beautiful transparent red colour and excellent body, working well both in water and oil, though, like other lakes, it dries slowly. Strong light discolours and destroys it both in water and oil; and its tints with white lead, and its combinations with other pigments, are not permanent; yet when well prepared and judiciously used in sufficient body, and kept from strong light, it has been known to last many years; but it ought never to be employed in glazing, nor at all in performances that aim at high reputation and durability. It is commonly tinted with vermilion, which has probably been mixed with lakes at all times to give them scarlet hue and add to their weight; for upon examining with a powerful lens some fine pictures of antient masters, in which lake had been used in glazing, particles of vermilion were apparent, from which lake had evidently flown: unfortunately, however, these lakes are injured by vermilion as they are by lead, so that glazings of cochineal lake over vermilion or lead are particularly apt to vanish. This effect is very remarkable in several pictures of Cuyp, in which he has introduced a figure in red from which the shadows have disappeared, owing to their having been formed with lake over vermilion.