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The Chemistry of Alchemy

Click Image to EnlargeInset: These cakes of blue pigment were made using a 15th-century alchemical recipe to extract lazurite, a blue-colored mineral, out of the stone lapis lazuli. Materials scientist Marc Walton is exploring how these old recipes worked in the creation of the color ultramarine, which was used extensively in paintings from the Renaissance onward. Using advanced characterization techniques at the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts, the processes of manufacture can be reverse engineered, which helps Walton reconstruct ancient workshop practices and provides valuable information on why the pigment deteriorates over time.
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