The pigment smalt itself is a deep dark blue, but when it comes to palettes, you can easily recognize it as a pale cobalt blue. In fact, it is one of the earliest cobalt blue pigments in history.
Smalt played a vital role in 16th to 17th-century European art. It is said to have been discovered by Bohemian glassmaker Christian Schiirrer in 1540. But there's earlier evidence that the color was used by ancient Egyptians as glazes on their ceramics as early as the 27th century BC.
You'd be surprised by the number of painters which in earlier centuries used this pigment, although it wasn't used in its true blue hue. Take a look at Renaissance painter Hans Holbein's portrait of Sir William Butts, or Johannes Vermeer's A Maid Asleep (1657) and Diana and her Companions (1650).
It is worth mentioning that smalt was Rembrandt's favorite blue pigment and he used the color in many of his paintings — but not to make bright blues, rather create mixtures with other pigments instead. However, an interesting character of this color is its habit of fading from bright blue to a murky brown. Smalt is a glass-like material that is made up of cobalt. It’s ground into powder and contains blue potassium. Once used, the color will fade over time due to the loss of potassium and affects the cobalt coordination of the particles, as mentioned in Chemical & Engineering News. One could say it is the poor man's blue compared to expensive ultramarine and other alternatives. It's a low-cost blue that was favored by Dutch and Flemish pigment manufacturers during the Renaissance period.
Go searching for your own shifting smalt hues with lovely landscapers or sublime seascapes. To capture all those rich, bursting colors we recommend a bright and juicy film like Lomography Color Negative 100 You can also bring out smalt hues with the use of color filters or gels, or for the trained experimentalists, print your photographs by undergoing the cyanotype process.
Don't forget to upload your smalt-colored shots on your LomoHome!