The Alchemy of Paint:
Art, Science and Secrets from the Middle Ages

Spike Bucklow

Have you ever wondered whether the gold paint in medieval art is real? Or stood in awe of a crimson sunset depicted in a painting, wondering how the colours can transport you beyond the cares of the material world?

In The Alchemy of Paint: Art, Science and Secrets from the Middle Ages, Spike Bucklow sets out to unravel the myths behind pigments like dragonsblood – said to be a mixture of elephant and dragon blood. Examining both the medieval palette and the often cloak-and-dagger science that created it, he uncovers the secret recipes behind the luxurious colours we are familiar with today. Driven by an overriding passion for art, his aim is to restore value to, and halt the commercialization of, colour; the vividness of orange is not defined by a mobile company. The purity of white is not owned by a computer manufacturer. Spike Bucklow reminds us all that pigments are a fundamentally natural resource and that our experience of colour itself can verge on the divine.

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Spike Bucklow is a Senior Research Scientist and Teacher of Theory based at the Hamilton Kerr Institute in Cambridge, where he studied for a PhD in the Conservation of Easel Paintings. He has written about pigment use in art for a number of journals and draws on a wide range of experience (he has a scientific background and has worked in film and TV producing special effects) to develop his ideas. He prefers to avoid the modern world wherever possible. To find out more about Spike Bucklow, please see his web site here:

Price £10.99 / $17.95
ISBN 978-0-7145-3172-4
Published July 2009
Format C Format

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COVER DESIGN: Alice Marwick