|While in Boston, I got to watch Painter Anthony Apesos |
demonstrate the Apelles Palette.
The following information is courtesy of the Color Academy website:
Apelles (c.370-c. 320 BCE). A central problem for the artist has always been exactly how to model form, and which colours or mixtures of colours to use in the highlights, halftones and shadows. Apelles was acknowledged as the principal advocate of the ancient tetrachrome palette, from which a wide range of colours, including all flesh-tints (pale to swarthy), could be mixed. Pliny writes of Apelles applying varnish to his paintings that ‘caused a radiance in the brightness of all the colours and protected the painting from dust and dirt’. The Alexander Mosaic at Pompeii is thought to have been copied from a painting by Apelles. Other notable artists of this time were Aëtion, Melanthius and Nikomachus. Of such artists as these, Pliny remarked, in Book 37.12 of his
Natural History: Quattuor coloribus solis immortalia illa opera fecere (‘Four colours alone make their work immortal’).
Apelles’ palette: Gypsum White, White Clay (Melian White), Yellow Ochre, Red Ochre (Sinoper), Lamp Black, Bone Black, Vine Black (blue-black).Reference: Don Pavey, Colour and Humanism (2003).
|24" x 18" self portrait #1 done from life: Indian Red, |
Yellow Ochre, Flake White and Ivory Black.
The four-colour system was probably most appropriate to figure painting, though a tetrachrome painter would not have considered it entirely against his principles to use a bright blue or green for the local colour of a garment. Of all the attributes that a classical Greek artist might want to depict, the four earth-colours were all that were needed to represent any complexion of human skin. In the mid-fifth century BCE, the hair of Hermes, a masterpiece by Praxitiles, was painted with Red Ochre, though of course no trace of this now remains. A simple method for mixing the four earth-colours, known as the color simplex, was credited to the painters Polygnotus and Anaglaophon, but a later period was characterised by a blending of a number of pigments to make one colour, and the most eminent classical critics scorned the art that was characterised by its mixtures of many colors.
So now it is my turn. Can I mix yellow ochre, ivory black, flake white and Indian Red and come up with something that halfway resembles a self portrait? Well, I am no amazing painter, but I wasn't completely dissatisfied with my attempt.