50g, 200g, 500g, 1 Kg, 4 Kg, 10 Kg
£65.00 – £400.00
Common Name: Madder
Botanical Name: Rubia tinctoria L.
The roots of this ancient plant are rich in red alizarin and are the source of a strong red dye. The uniforms of the British Red Coats were dyed with madder root. It is a perennial plant growing to a height of approximately 100cm. It has slender, jointed stems which are covered with short prickly leaves. The flowers are small green/yellow and bell shaped. In the late autumn the seeds turn black and dry out to resemble black peppercorns. Madder can be propagated from seed, root and shoot divisions.
Madder is a perennial climbing plant with evergreen leaves and small pale yellow flowers. The roots can be over three feet long, and are usually harvested in the second or third year of growth. Considered an ancient or heirloom dye plant; madder has been used throughout history for the brilliant orange and red hues it can produce.
Madder has been cultivated as a dyestuff since antiquity in central Asia and Egypt, where it was grown as early as 1500 B.C. Cloth dyed with madder root pigment was found in the tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun and in the ruins of Pompeii and ancient Corinth. In the middle ages, Charlemagne encouraged madder cultivation. It grew well in the sandy soils of the Netherlands and became an important part of the local economy.
Thompson thinks that the madder lakes were less employed in medieval painting then were the brazil lakes. He says that pure madders, as they are known now, came into use in the 17th and 18th centuries and that they were not important in the Middle Ages [The Materials of Medieval Painting, pp. 123-124].
By 1804, the English dye-maker, George Field, had developed a technique to lake madder by treating it with alum. This turned the water-soluble madder extract into a solid, insoluble pigment. This resulting madder lake had a longer-lasting color, and could be used more versatilely, for example by blending it into a paint. Over the following years, it was found that other metal salts, including those containing iron, tin, and chromium, could be use in place of alum to give madder-based pigments of various other colors.
In 1826, the French chemist Pierre-Jean Robiquet found there were two colorants in madder root, alizarin and the more rapidly fading purpurin. The alizarin component became the first natural dye to be synthetically duplicated in 1868 when the German chemists Karl Graebe and Karl Lieberman, working for BASF, found a way to produce it from anthracene. About the same time, the English dye chemist William Perkin independently discovered the same synthesis, although the BASF group filed their patent before Perkin by only one day. The synthetic alizarin could be produced at less than half the cost of the natural product, and the market for madder collapsed virtually overnight. Alizarin itself has been in turn largely replaced today by the more light-resistant quinacridone pigments developed at DuPont in 1958.
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