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Martin Drolling's Interior of a Kitchen made extensive use of mummy brown

Mummy brown was a rich brown bituminous pigment, intermediate in tint between burnt umber and raw umber, which was one of the favorite colors of the Pre-Raphaelites.[1]



Mummy brown was originally made in the 16th and 17th centuries from white pitch, myrrh, and the ground-up remains of Egyptian mummies, both human and feline.[2][3] As it had good transparency, it could be used for glazes, shadows, flesh tones and shading.[4] However, in addition to its tendency to crack, it was extremely variable in its composition and quality, and since it contained ammonia and particles of fat, was likely to affect other colors with which it was used.[5] It fell from popularity during the 19th century when its composition became more generally known to artists.[6] The Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones was reported to have ceremonially buried his tube of mummy brown in his garden when he discovered its true origins.[4]

By 1915, one London colorman claimed that he could satisfy the demands of his customers for twenty years from one Egyptian mummy. Mummy brown eventually ceased being produced in its traditional form later in the 20th century when the supply of available mummies was exhausted.[1]

Present dayEdit

The modern pigment sold as "mummy brown" is composed of a mixture of kaolin, quartz, goethite and hematite, the hematite and goethite (generally 60% of the content) determining the color – the more hematite the redder the pigment - with the others being inert substances that can vary the opacity or tinting strength.[7] The color of mummy brown can vary from yellow to red to dark violet, the latter usually called "mummy violet".[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "The Passing of Mummy Brown". TIME. 1964-10-02.
  2. ^ Tom Scott (18 March 2019). "The Library of Rare Colors". Retrieved 8 May 2019 – via YouTube.
  3. ^ Adeline, Jules; Hugo G. Beigel (1966). The Adeline Art Dictionary. F. Ungar Pub. Co.
  4. ^ a b McCouat, Philip, "The life and death of Mummy Brown", Journal of Art in Society
  5. ^ Field, George (2008). Field's Chromatography. BiblioBazaar, LLC. pp. 254–255. ISBN 978-1-4346-6961-2.
  6. ^ Church, A. H. (1901). The Chemistry of Paints and Painting. London: Seeley and Co.
  7. ^ a b "Mummy Brown". Archived from the original on 2004-08-16. Retrieved 2008-02-08.


  • Eastaugh, Nicholas (2004). Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments. Butterworth-Heinemann. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-7506-5749-5.
  • Church, A. H. (1901). The Chemistry of Paints and Painting. London: Seeley and Co.
  • Mayer, Ralph (1945). A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques. New York: Harper and Row Publishers.