Saturday, 6 July 2013

Italian Earth Pigments at the Paris International Exposition of 1867

monte Amiata

Some earth pigments from Italy were exhibited at the Paris International Exposition of 1867 (Curioni 1869).

Among the entire set of the earth pigments exhibited, a collection from the area of Siena were exhibited in a wide range of colours, "intense red", "pale red", "amber-coloured" and some qualities of "yellow" (Curioni 1869, p.30).
The most notable collection were exhibited by Carlo Zocchi from Siena and Clemente Santi from Montalcino (Curioni 1869).
In addition to the earth pigments collection, Clemente Santi exhibited some samples of diatomaceous earth discovered in mount Amiata: his exhibition deserved a honourable mention (Curioni 1869, p.30).
Clemente Santi, as noted by Repetti (1843), was the nephew of Giorgio Santi, not by chance the writer of "Viaggio al Montamiata", "Journey to mount Amiata", the Clemente Santi's diatomoceous earth samples were coming from this mountain and, maybe as well, his earth pigments.
Indeed, in "Viaggio al Montamiata", Santi (1795) write some suggestions in order to find the earth pigments. "In some areas", write Santi (1795, pp.92-93):
"close to Castel del piano, particularly in the area called Mazzarelle, west-side Castello, down to the Lente river, if you dig the soil, over the vegetable layer you may find a soil layer, more or less higher, very sticky, when is wet, and with a beautiful yellow colour. Carrying on with digging,  you can find behind this layer a bole more sticky than the other with brownish bloody red colour, as long as it is in lumps or fragments, but with a brownish yellow colour when you bring it into dust. The first earth pigment is called yellow bole, the last, umber".
Maybe the collection by Clemente Santi could be a Giorgio Santi's Collection perhaps collected during his journey to mount Amiata.
If the earth pigments from Siena area, that Curioni (1869) also remember for its commercial value, was exhibited during the Expo in a wide range of colours, the green earth from mount Bald, as noted by Curioni (1869), even though it was in the catalogue, was not exhibited.
The commercial value of Italian earth pigments, as noted by Curioni (1869), was not very considered, and in the end of his report noted:
"it is a shame that anyone in Italy, judging from this expositions, did not yet organize a serious production of all kinds of colours, taking advantage from what the nature is giving us in the form of earth pigments".


  • Curioni G. 1869, Relazioni dei giurati italiani sulla Esposizione Universale del 1867, Volume Terzo, Stabilimento Gius. Pellas, Firenze.
  • Repetti E. 1843, Dizionario geografico fisico storico della Toscana contenente la descrizione di tutti i luoghi del Granducato, Ducato di Lucca, Granducato e Lunigiana, compilato da Emanuele Repetti socio ordinario dell' I. e R. Accademia dei Georgofili e di varie altre, Volume Quinto, Giovanni Mazzoni, Firenze.
  • Santi G. 1795, Viaggio al Montamiata di Giorgio Santi professore d'istoria naturale nell'Universit√† di Pisa, Ranieri Prosperi Stamp. dell'Almo Stud., Pisa.
V.F. Marrese — Teatro Anatomico — 2013

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