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Subject: Bluing


From: Melissa R. Katz <mkatz>
Date: Monday, November 15, 1999
Brad Epley <bepley [at] neosoft__com> writes

>I am currently researching some of the paints used on objects in our
>collection of Northwest Coast Native Art.  I have come across a
>reference for a laundry bluing, specifically Reckett's Ltd., which
>was apparently distributed by British soldiers in the late
>nineteenth century.  I am looking for information regarding what
>particular pigment the laundry bluing may be (Prussian blue,
>indigo?) and if anyone has tips for its identification with
>transmitted light microscopy or microchemical testing.

Heidi Curtiss carried our a research project last year on laundry
bluing while an undergraduate at Wellesley College. This was a
follow-up to an earlier project to identify the blue pigment used in
an African mask in our museum, one of a series of projects I've set
up to involve museum objects in the teaching of science.  Her
project was supervised by Prof. Margaret V . Merritt of Wellesley's
chemistry dept., and analysis was provided by Richard Newman of the
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and Peter Melling of Remspec, Inc.

Heidi determined that the pigment used in Reckitt's laundry bluing
was synthetic ultramarine. Heidi correspondence with the firm, which
confirmed that synthetic ultramarine had been used and regularly
exported to Africa from the 1890s onwards.  (Limited supplied might
have reached Africa in the 1880s). Interestingly, Reckitt & Colman
(new name) still exports laundry bluing today, mostly to the West

Roy Perkinson, senior paper conservator at the MFA, had published
similar findings as well, which he kindly shared with us.  Nancy
/Matthew Crawford of  the Arizona State Museum and Gerry
Barton/Sabine Weik of Germany have also published on laundry bluing
as an ethnographic pigment.

I believe both Heidi Curtiss and Prof. Merritt intend to continue
their research on pigments used in African art.  I'm sure many of
their findings will be relevant to Native American and Oceanic
painted objects as well. I'd suggest you contact them directly for
further information.  Their respective e-mails are
<hcurtiss [at] alum__wellesley__edu> and <mmerritt [at] wellesley__edu>.
Hope this helps with your project,

Melissa R. Katz
Asst. Curator
Davis Museum and Cultural Center
Wellesley College, Massachusetts

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:30
               Distributed: Wednesday, November 17, 1999
                       Message Id: cdl-13-30-009
Received on Monday, 15 November, 1999

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