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Rainbow technology

Colour is a language not just of the senses, but of the various substances - animal and mineral, cheap and priceless - which have produced them

By Justin Broackes   December 2002

Book: Bright Earth Author: Philip Ball Price: (Penguin, ?9.99)

Colours today are cheap, abundant and short on meaning. It is a far cry from the Florence of 1485, when Ghirlandaio was contracted to paint an Adoration of the Magi with an ultramarine that cost more per ounce than the artist’s monthly fee. Good colours were hard to come by, and were valued for themselves as much as for what they might represent. From all over Italy one might send to Venice for the best plant products and minerals; and Venice would have bought from the rest of the known world.…

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