colour provenance

photo Laura Daza


The different shades, colours and hues have the power to overwhelm, but it seems that the origins and journeys of these pigments are obscure and forgotten. Today, colour is a commodity mechanically made and claimed for mass consumption, once colour had a unique aura, power and magic that brought stories alive.
Colour Provenance is a visual investigation and interpretation into the ancient world of colour. Through developing a thorough understanding and knowledge of how colour was sourced, crafted and utilized in the past, Laura Daza hopes to both celebrate the ancient rituals and alchemic techniques that were once used but also make people re-appreciate colour through the process of experimenting and re-manufacturing authentic ancient pigments that are increasingly being lost. It seems that today we have lost touch with the origins of colour, as we move away from natural materials and traditional methods.
Colour making was a laborious process. For instance, Medieval and Renaissance masters would have apprentices to grind the pigments for them and source the most precious and difficult to find ingredients to produce colours.
In this project, Daza tells the story of 8 colours, Whiteshell, Saffron, Ochre, Verdigris, Malachite, Azurite, Mummy Brown and Lamp Black by reviving its history, origins, secrets and authentic methods for producing them. Inspired in the purity of the ancient Egyptian colour palette and the materials used to manufacture them, she reinterprets these colours and recipes by resourcing raw materials.

For instance, recreating green from malachite, considered to be the first green ever used by humanity. Her journey has taken her to many places and experiment with a range of different materials such as bones, eggs, mummies, minerals and shells as a modern alchemist. Mummy brown, one of her colours, has an interesting story, which its true to its origins, mummies were grinded to make pigment.

Laura Daza designed a ‘DIY Colour Recipe Book’, a useful handbook for people to make and experiment with colour, which highlights these ancient colours giving back its value and meaning. It shows key tools, secrets and her experience recreating them. The revival of historical recipes for making colour such as Cennino Cennini’s ‘Il libro dell’ Arte’ and ancient Egyptian manuscripts, were part of her process. Laura hopes to take you through a fascinating journey into the past to help us understand and appreciate colour in a different way.
Laura also designed a collection of bespoke vessels that display, highlight and contain colour pigment. Each vessel represents different colours from the Colour Provenance palette. Each piece is handcrafted as a precious jewel using the same materials used for manufacturing colour pigments; she used uncommon materials that in old times were precious and today usually we discard them very easily. These vessels remind us about the importance of colour and how it has played an important role in humanity.


photo Laura Daza


Left grinding white shell - Right : saffon strands - KKGas Photography


Left: ochre raw material - Right : malachite ingredients - KKGas Photography


Ochre - KKGas Photography


Left : aceticacid - Right verdigris pigment - KKGas Photography


Photography Laura Daza - Colour Provenance project