Week 7 – Observing Orpiment

May 01, 2020

Welcome back, everyone!

I spent this week studying another toxic yellow pigment – orpiment.  The use of orpiment began in antiquity, but it is interesting because it is one of the few yellow pigments that has (almost entirely) fallen out of use. This is, as you probably guessed, due to its toxic nature. When I was first researching this pigment, one of the first sources I found simply described the pigment as “very poisonous.” I found this confusing at first before I looked back at the pigment’s chemical formula: arsenic sulfide (As2S3). I found that entry funny after that. 

While orpiment was used throughout Asia from around the 10th century AD, it was never very popular in Europe where it was overshadowed by Naples yellow. It eventually fell out of use in the 19th century.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I made a map of orpiment use as a test prior to beginning my internship. However, after spending these past few weeks collecting data for new maps, I decided to go back and rework my old sheet to better fit with my new system. I was still looking for much of the same information, so I was able to use a good portion of the data from my previous spreadsheet. I mostly focused on changing the format, expanding some entries, and adding a few new ones. Because I already had most of the things I needed, it took me significantly less time to finish this. 

I used the rest of my time this week to begin the process of actually making the maps. I’ll go more into that process next week and share some of the maps while I’m at it. Until then!

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