THE ANCIENT COLOR FROM A FISH

The Greeks observed that the common cuttlefish emitted a brownish-black pigment when attacked.  They discovered that pigment could be made by drying and pulverizing the dried fish’s ink sack. Cuttlefish, Sepia Officinalis, are actually not fish, but mollusks, like the squid, octopus, and nautilus.  The name for both the pigment and paint color is Sepia, derived from Sepia Officinalis.   Although Sepia is today a common name for a color in paints and inks, it actually refers to a range of browns, brown-blacks, and red-browns. The true color of Sepia, coming from a fish, is probably known to only a few people. In the 1700s, real Sepia was used as an ink and wash on paper.  In the 1800s, it was used as a pigment in oil painting, but it lost popularity because it turned redder when exposed to light.  Interestingly, some paint manufacturers like to add red to their modern color Sepia, so that it looks similar to the faded 19th century color.

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