Where in the World? Ultramarine

July 18, 2023

In the final episode of the series, Curator Aimee Ng is joined by Xavier F. Salomon, Deputy Director and Peter Jay Sharp Chief Curator, to explore ultramarine, the world’s most expensive pigment. The rich blue color appears in the Frick’s Coronation of the Virgin by Paolo and Giovanni Veneziano and in paintings made centuries later by Johannes Vermeer. Meaning “beyond the sea,” ultramarine bridges these European artists with a much wider world—including a network of people whose labor made the pigment, and thus these incredible works of art, possible.

Thank you for joining us in this series, inspired by the fresh perspectives gained from the Frick’s temporary move to Frick Madison. We’ve explored some stories of the undeniable links between the museum’s collection and regions beyond Europe, asking “where in the world” we can find new connections to familiar objects. We hope you enjoyed the journey!

To learn more

Bucklow, Spike. The Alchemy of Paint: Art, Science and Secrets from the Middle Ages. London, 2009.

Ganio, Monica, et al. “From lapis lazuli to ultramarine blue: Investigating Cennino Cennini’s recipe using sulfur K-edge XANES.” In Pure and Applied Chemistry vol. 90, no. 3 (2018): 463–75.

Pastoureau, Michel. Blue: The History of a Color. Princeton, 2001.

Sfameli, Maria, et al. Lapis Lazuli: Magia del Blu. Exh. cat. Florence (Palazzo Pitti and Museo di Storia Naturale), 2015.

Image credits

Paolo Veneziano with Giovanni Veneziano, The Coronation of the Virgin, 1358. Tempera on panel, 43 1/4 x 27 in. (109.9 x 68.6 cm). The Frick Collection, New York

Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain, 1308–11. Tempera on poplar panel, 17 x 18 1/8 in. (43.2 x 46 cm). The Frick Collection, New York

Lapis lazuli with pyrite. Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge (91352)

Lapis lazuli with pyrite. Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge (99501)

Gentile da Fabriano, Madonna and Child, with Saints Lawrence and Julian, 1423–5. Tempera on panel, 35 3/4 x 18 1/2 in. (90.8 x 47 cm). The Frick Collection, New York

Tripod Table, French, ca. 1785. Gilt bronze, lapis lazuli, iron, and oak, h. 28 1/4 in. (71.8 cm), diam. 16 1/4 in. (41.3 cm). The Frick Collection, New York

Valley of Kuran wa Munjan, Badakhshan. Public domain

Ultramarine pigment. Public domain

Lapis lazuli with pyrite, photo by Hannes Grobe, 2008. CC BY-SA 2.5

Lazurite and pyrite, photo by Géry Parent

Detail from Boccaccio, Des cleres et nobles femmes, illuminated by Robinet Testard, 1488–96. Bibliothèque Nationale de France

Johannes Vermeer, Officer and Laughing Girl, ca. 1657. Oil on canvas, 19 7/8 x 18 1/8 in. (50.5 x 46 cm). The Frick Collection, New York



Facebook Twitter Threads