"Mummy Brown" Paint Was Made Of Mummified Cats And Humans

There was a group of British painters called pre-Raphaelites who liked using a particular shade of brown in their masterpieces. To get just the right hue, they ground up ancient Egyptian human and cat mummies.

At the Scientific American blog Symbiartic, Glendon Mellow explains:

Considered to be a highly variable pigment between raw umber (almost greenish brown) and burnt umber (a ruddier brown), Mummy Brown was a transparent brown good for mixing. And it was appalling. Made from ancient Egyptian human and feline mummies grave-robbed investigated as antiquities in Europe, there was a craze to use the bodies for everything from fertilizer to beauty creams to fine art paint pigment.

Mummy brown was eventually given up by most painters "due to ick," says Mellow, but it was still available through at least the 1960s, when paint manufacturers finally ran out of the stuff.

"Mummy Brown" Paint Was Made Of Mummified Cats And Humans

Just think. When you're admiring some pre-Raphaelite art at the museum, you could be staring into tiny little bits of ground-up cats. LOL?

Read the whole post over at Symbiartic.

[Symbiartic via Smithsonian SmartNews]

Images: Ancient Egyptian animal mummies on display at the British Museum (Source); Wikimedia Commons.