Orpiment sits on the color gradient between yellow and orange, a bright pigment mostly found and seen in minerals. It comes from arsenic sulfide were lemon or similar bright yellows come from as well. The main sources of this material are found in Turkish Kurdistan and the Russian republic of Georgia.
The name of the color comes from the Latin word auripigmentum, meaning golden pigment.
According to Natural Pigments, the source of the color comes from a rare mineral that forms with realgar and would usually come in huge masses. The luster would usually range from resinous to pearly. Italian painters source orpiment from the fumaroles of Mount Vesuvius and Campi Flegrei in Tuscany. Web Exhibits traced further origins and history of orpiment:
“Known to the Greeks as arsenikon and related to the Persian zarnikh which is based on the word zar, the Persian for gold. Known since ancient times its export to Europe was at one time prolific with large supplies reportedly leaving the Yunnan province of China. Mentioned by Pliny and Vitruvious and found in Egyptian works, Persian and across Asia. It seems to have had little known use in Northern Europe where lead tin yellow seems to have been one of the dominant yellows in a European palette. During the Renaissance, orpiment was imported to Venice from Asia Minor.”
It’s also a color that dates way back into ancient times, and sometimes was considered as ‘gold’ in ancient Egypt, from 31st to 6th century B.C, as well as in Greek and Roman documents. The work Leyden papyrus described orpiment as a door used for late Egyptian painting, in alchemy, the color was of interest to both Eastern and Western alchemists as they searched for a way to recreate gold.
To emulate this color in photography, we recommend using color gel filters and shooting in the golden hours while pushing a color negative film such as the Lomography Color Negative 400.
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