The Origin of Venetian Red

The Origin of Venetian Red

Where do our pigments originate from? Our pigments originate from all around the world! Here are the stories of one of our natural Earth & Mineral Pigment, Venetian Red - also known as Red Ochre.

Venetian Red has been in use since prehistoric times and is found and used around the world. It's a natural earthen clay that is tinted by iron oxide and is composed of a naturally calcined form of the mineral hematite - along with traces of gypsum and calcite. 

Hematite is a mineral composed of iron oxide minerals (Fe2O3) that occur as natural earth and is one of the most permanent and archival pigments in the world. How much iron oxide and other minerals are present determines the color of red which varies from deep red to orange or brownish red.

After testing many red earth pigments from around the world, we chose this vibrant red from a family-owned quarry in the Veneto region of Italy for its luminous, rich red color and mixing quality.

Venetian Red has a superlative tinting power as it’s semi-opaque. It has a lower chroma (less bright) than other reds and a pinkish undertone, which can be seen when mixing it with white.

Historical: Venetian Red has been in use by all cultures from pre-historic cave paintings to present day. Ancient Aboriginal artists revered Venetian Red as a truly sacred color. It is and was an integral part of the initiation ceremony of young boys when they become men. In Arnhemland, novices are smeared with red ochre in sacred clan patterns on their chests, with white clay masks on their faces. The paint is part of the secret initiation. Anthropologists say the red earth represents men’s blood (death) or women’s menstrual blood (birth) but there’s another theory that the iron in the red ochre acts as a kind of magnet to show Ancestors and Aboriginal people the way along sacred paths.

Add some Venetian Red to your pigment collection today!