The Names of the Earths

Spike Bucklow


Attitudes towards earth have changed radically over time. The planet upon which we live was once the still centre about which the universe spun in harmony but ‘earth’ is now a tiny speck that hurtles around a star on the margins of one of countless galaxies. In the distant past, earth was venerated as the archetypal Mother, in more recent history she, or it, has been exploited as an apparently inexhaustible resource. More recently still, earth has become seen as an integral part of a potentially vulnerable ecological life-support system.  Directly or indirectly, earth contributes to all aspects of life and, in many respects, earth’s contribution is now taken for granted.

So, it is not surprising that artists’ understandings of the painting material called ‘earth’ have also changed.

In art, parts of the earth have been acknowledged in the landscape tradition which harnesses vistas available on the surface. But the work presented here engages with what is beneath the surface and seeks to visualise a traditional use of earth in art, taking a contemporary approach to an established practice. The collaboration focuses on the extraction, preparation and incorporation of earth into the very substance of works of art and it connects with earth physically as well as visually.

Earths have been dug-out and used, either raw or burnt, to provided artists with colours, and paints incorporating earths have been in continuous use from at least 30,000BC.[i] Historically, the material was hewn from hillsides, usually in the autumn, the resulting boulders were crushed over the winter and washed through the spring, to be ground and allowed to dry through the summer. The timing of the processes took advantage of the seasons and was integrated with other agricultural tasks. The resulting powders could be re-washed, or ‘levigated’, to increase the intensity of their colour and burnt, or ‘calcined’, to change their colour. These processed earths were then used locally or transported, sometimes a considerable distance, as items of trade. In the European painting tradition, earth pigments have been mixed with lime for fresco, glue for distemper, egg for tempera, gum for watercolour, and with oils as well as more recently, acrylic.

Appropriately coloured earths are very widespread, ranging from yellows through reds to browns and including some intense purples and blacks. Burning earth turns the yellows into reds and can darken the browns. The dominant colouring matter in earths is iron, which comes in a variety of states and is generally accompanied by clays or quartz. The exact make-up varies due to the geographic origin and the pre-processing of the earth and accounts for their different colours and their opacity or transparency when used in paint.[ii] The yellow pigments contain iron oxide hydroxides, the reds are anhydrous iron oxides and the darker colours can contain significant amounts of manganese. Today, the more transparent pigments are called ‘siennas’, the opaque ones are called ‘ochres’ and the darker ones are ‘umbers’.


This essay tries to uncover attitudes towards earth by examining the names by which artists knew these materials. But not all mineral colours that are dug from the earth are called earths. Where a mineral’s composition was exploited, as in a metal ore, it usually had a specific name, like cinnabar or vermilion. Where the mineral’s colour was particularly rare it also tended to have a specific name, as in lapis lazuli or ultramarine. These names provide insight into artists’ pigments so, for example, ‘ultra-marine’ literally means ‘over-seas’. Artists and patrons alike considered ‘ultramarine blue’ to be more exotic than other, local, blues and it cost ten times more than other, very similar looking, blue minerals.[iii]

Those mineral colours that actually are called earths – such as siennas, ochres and umbers – have always resisted classification. Twentieth-century reference works list more than twenty names for each of the red and yellow, natural and synthetic pigments,[iv] and more than fifty synonyms for the iron oxide-based pigments.[v] Historically, they have all been known generically as ‘earths’ as well as, specifically, by other names that usually allude to either the supposed geographic origin of the material or its colour.

Supposed geographic origins account for historic names such as ‘English red’,[vi]  ‘Indian red’ and ‘Venetian red’, although not all materials described as such came from the claimed location. For example, a patent issued in 1626 mentions ‘Spanish brown’ which, despite its name, was ‘digged in the fforest of Deane’[vii] in Gloucestershire where natural earth pigments are still being produced today.[viii] Some pigments marketed under these names were even artificial colours with no identifiable geographic origin.[ix]

Most names do not fall neatly into geographic or colour categories. For example, ‘sinopia’ and its variants may refer to the Turkish city of Sinope, which according to different authorities was either the source of a red earth, the city through which the red earths of Cappadocia were transported,[x] or a generic term for red earths implying no specific origin. Alternatively, the name may be a variant on ‘cinabro’, or cinnabar, the natural ore for mercury which, because of its red colour, had obvious colour associations with the red earths.[xi] The Oxford English Dictionary suggests that, whilst sinoper could mean a red colour, a red earth or cinnabar, the latter use may have been the more usual sense.[xii] Still other names, like ‘rubrica’ and its variants,[xiii] as well as ‘haematite’,[xiv] further blur the boundaries between the geographic origins and the colours of earth pigments, as will be seen.

Medieval artists also knew that a pigment very similar to the red earths – rust – could be obtained directly from iron. A common waste-product from alchemical experiments was a purple-red iron compound known to alchemists and artists alike as caput mortem, Latin for ‘dead head’.[xv] From the seventeenth century onwards iron oxides were produced commercially by a variety of means.[xvi]  These were marketed as ‘Mars’ colours and the prefix is still in use today for artificially-produced iron oxide-based paints. Naming an iron-based pigment after a planet provides a clue about the historic understanding of why different places had different coloured rocks and soils, Egypt’s earth being black, Libya’s red and Arabia’s pale, for example.[xvii]

The Mars colours acknowledge the traditional relationship between the planet Mars and the metal, iron. Different metals and stones on earth were said to be formed under the influence of different planets and stars in the heavens so, for example, the thirteenth-century Dominican, Albertus Magnus, said that the most powerful stones came from the east because ‘the power of the planets is most effective in those places’.[xviii] Iron-rich rocks were presumably formed in places on earth where the influence of the planet Mars was especially strong, and Mars’ influence was ‘martial’. Mars was the god of war and iron was used in the manufacture of weapons so Pliny noted, in connection with spears and arrows, that ‘to enable death to reach human beings more quickly, we have taught iron how to fly and given wings to it!’[xix] However, he also noted that the ‘benevolence of nature has limited the power of iron … by inflicting on it the penalty of rust … making nothing in the world more mortal than that which is most hostile to mortality.’[xx] The colour of iron’s corrosion product was blood-red,[xxi] and was an clue to the metal’s martial nature. Particularly pure deposits of iron oxide acknowledged this connection in the name haematite, literally, ‘blood stone’, which was used by both geologists and artists. It follows that particularly red earths were said to be found at the site of legendary battles.[xxii]

Ochres, Umbers and Sienna

The name of ochre is unambiguously related to a colour – it comes from the Greek for pale yellow.[xxiii] The name is therefore appropriate, if tautological, for ‘yellow ochres’, but a misnomer for ‘red ochres’ and ‘brown ochres’.[xxiv] It is a yellow (or red or brown) colour that comes from numerous different locations. For example, in the seventeenth century, John Smith wrote of ‘oakers’ extracted from the Shotover Hills near Oxford,[xxv] and Mary Beale, England’s first professional female painter, used ‘Bury Ochre’ from near Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, close to her birthplace.[xxvi]

On the other hand, umbers are now commonly assumed to be earth pigments that come from a single locality – the Umbrian region of Italy. However, the existence of ‘Cyprian umber’, for example, suggests that the pigment’s name does not primarily refer to a place, since the same material cannot come simultaneously from both Cyprus and Umbria. Cyprus now accounts for about 80% of all artists’ umbers,[xxvii] but in 1821, Roberson, London’s premier fine art supplier, made paint from ‘English Umber’.[xxviii]

The most probable origin of umber’s name is not Umbria, but the Latin ombra, or shadow.[xxix] An Italian painter used the term terre d’ombre, or ‘earth of shadows, for a pigment that could be used in dark painting passages. This was translated by an English doctor as ‘umber’.[xxx] In two plays also written in or around 1599, Shakespeare used the word as both a material substance and as an optical phenomenon. Using the word to refer to a material in As You Like It, Celia said she would disguise herself ‘…in poor and mean attire / And with a kind of umber smirch my face’.[xxxi] But, in Henry V, troops had ‘umbered faces’ on the eve of battle not because they were smeared with the earth of Umbria, or of Agincourt, but because they were shadowed by flickering pre-dawn camp-fires.[xxxii] So at the beginning of the seventeenth century, umber meant both a shadow and a material with which shadow-like effects could be produced.

Sienna’s name relates to neither the colour of the material, like ochre, nor the colour of the paint passages to which it can contribute, like umber. According to the Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, siennas are earth pigments from Siena.[xxxiii] This city may indeed have been the site of quarries and mines that produced earth pigments. Winsor and Newton obtained raw sienna from a mine south of the city until 1988, but more recently the company obtained the pigment from Sicily and Sardinia.[xxxiv] Today, the pigment is a synthetic transparent iron oxide known as Mars Yellow or, somewhat less poetically, PY42.

Evidence suggests that, through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, most earths used in English artists’ paints were derived from Italy, Southern France and Cyprus. More far-flung sources, such as those in the Americas and Australia, etc, have not been widely used by European artists in spite of the voracious European exploitation of these sources for iron and steel and the local use of the same raw material as a pigment in indigenous art.[xxxv]

Sienna’s name may indeed reflect one of the pigment’s possible origins. Yet, from the nineteenth century, artists’ paints have been manufactured in batches of tens or hundreds of kilos. The composition of small-scale European geological deposits varies considerably even with very limited localities. It is therefore very unlikely that exactly the same sources of earth were used for each batch of paint – in order to maintain colour consistency, earths from a variety of sources have to be blended.[xxxvi] Sienna has no geographical qualifiers – there are no Cyprian, English or Bury siennas, as there are ochres and umbers – sienna’s only qualifiers relate to its colour, ‘raw’ for yellow and ‘burnt’ for red. The artists’ material is not related to a particular place, so, why call it sienna? And why, when other locality-based names like ‘Cologne earth’ have fallen from favour, has sienna’s name stuck?

The city of Siena was not famed for any particularly bloody battle, yet such a legendary explanation for the colour of its earth is unlikely since the first use of the name is in the mid-eighteenth century. This dates the invention of the name to after the demise of the quasi-mythical lapidaries (medieval encyclopaedia devoted to the origins and properties of stones) and puts the name firmly within the period in which geology was developing as a rational discipline.[xxxvii]

A mid-eighteenth-century English-speaking person with an interest in painting would have known the city of Siena – by reputation, if not first-hand experience – through the Grand Tour. The Tour was an institution in which the rich would visit the continent, and especially Italy, to gain exposure to culture for a matter of months or years, and by the time the pigment’s name was committed to print, the Tour had been established for over a century. It could be argued that naming the earth after the city enabled the pigment to bask in the city’s glory and one might speculate that the colour’s name will endure so long as the city remains a popular tourist destination amongst those interested in art. The suggestion that sienna’s name has broadly cultural – as opposed to strictly geographical – significance is reinforced by the observation that English names for earths that pre-date the Grand Tour tend to allude to English, Spanish or German rather than Italian origins.

It follows that a painter who has sienna on their palette has a nominal stake in an artistically-rich city or region in North Italy. Of course the amount of territory the painter acquires when purchasing the pigment is too small to build a villa on, but the physical acquisition of symbolic quantities of earth has a long history. For example, in the fifth century before Christ, Herodotus relates how Xerxes, King of Persia, demanded tributes of a handful of earth (and water) from the Greeks. Some Greeks gave earth as a token of submission but the Athenians, who did not, had their land and city devastated by the Persians.[xxxviii] Closer to home, Moot Hill in Scone, Perthshire, (previously known as the ‘Mount of Belief’[xxxix]) is a ceremonial mound that was said to have been made by handfuls of local earths brought by generations of chieftains to demonstrate the allegiance of their home territories to the Scottish king. A similar but more recent coronation ceremony is documented in Hungary. In the medieval period, artificial mounds of token earths grew in Székesfehérvár, during Ottoman occupation, in Bratislava, and then Budapest. In the twenty-first century, the Bratislava mound was moved and soil from every EU country was added to turn the old ‘Coronation Hill’ into the new ‘Integration Mound’.[xl]

Token tributes of transported earth acknowledge the profound connection between a people and the soil upon which they live. The concept is not restricted to conquering emperors or bureaucrats. It is also found in literature, so in the nineteenth-century, Bram Stoker had his fictional creation, Dracula, transport fifty boxes of his native soil in order to sustain himself whilst attempting to conquer England with the living-dead. The significance of Dracula’s transported earth was reinforced by the ship in which it was conveyed. The ship was named after the Greek earth goddess, Demeter.[xli]

Geo-political practices such as those of Persian and Scottish kings and Hungarian Eurocrats, as well as stories like Bram Stoker’s, are variants on the universal belief in the life-giving (or at least, un-dead-giving) connection with Mother Earth. They are institutional and fictional expressions of myths, such as the story about the apparently invincible Antaios, who could only be vanquished by Hercules when lifted into the air and thus physically separated from the earth.[xlii]

The English eighteenth-century painter’s name for the pigment sienna suggests an echo of the mythological significance of retaining contact with the soil of a particular locality. By using a pigment called sienna, a painter makes a nominal connection between his or her work and the earth upon which Duccio, Simone Martini or the Lorenzetti brothers walked.


Ochre, umber and sienna are highly specialised technical words and they have limited circulation outside the artists’ workshop. They are all relatively new and their derivation is relatively simple.[xliii] On the other hand, older and more general words have much more complex derivations and, in the sense of a substance that is found underfoot, there are many different words for earth.[xliv]

According to Plato, ‘everything has a right name of its own’,[xlv] which may or may not correspond to the name in general usage, and the tradition that words have inherent – as opposed to merely conventional names – is also found in the Bible.[xlvi] Determining the ‘right’ name was the task of etymology, a word derived from etumos and logos, Greek for ‘true’ and ‘word’. Etymology is now practiced in two distinct modes, historical and semantic or poetic. The so-called historical mode traces the development of words noting, for example, the connection between the sounds ‘de’ and ‘ge’ that links the names of two Greek goddesses associated with earth – Demeter and Ge or Gaia.[xlvii] Such historical etymology is a relatively modern practice, and over the period in which the names of the earths were developing, the vast majority of etymology was of the semantic or poetic type.

Semantic or poetic etymology has been defined as a technique for ‘rescuing the text from prescriptive or reductive interpretations, without deforming it’ such that ‘what the name buries…the etymology animates or exhumes.’[xlviii] This has evident value in a biblical context,[xlix] and parallels have been drawn between semantic etymology and the practice of magic.[l] Plato’s Cratylus and Isidore of Seville’s seventh-century Etymologies, elaborate semantic etymologies and both texts had wide and enduring influence,[li] with exactly the same general pattern of word-interpretation being followed, for example, in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.[lii]


The word ‘earth’ comes from the Greek for ‘on the ground’. However, most interpretive etymology involves the names of earth’s personification – the goddesses including Ceres, Proserpina, Demeter and Ge or Gaia. The name of this last goddess was revived in the late-twentieth century to embody the hypothesis that all animals, vegetables and minerals form a complex, self-regulating system that maintains life on earth.[liii] In so doing, it acknowledged a connection between the new science of ecology and the ancient venerated Earth Mother. Isidore of Seville said that the goddess Ceres got her name because she was the creator (creare) of crops – including, of course, cereals[liv] – and Proserpina was named because her fruits ‘spread forth’ (proserpere).[lv]  He linked the Latin equivalent of earth, terra, to ‘the upper surface which is worn away (terere)’, whilst the lower material was ‘soil (humus)…or moist (humidus) earth’. The ground was called ‘ground (tellus) because we carry away (tollere) what it produces.’[lvi] The upper surface of the earth can be worn away with wind as dry dust but it is the lower, humid, earth that is dug-up and carried-off to make pigments for painters.

Plato acknowledged that the semantic connections in Greek may owe something to older languages and could be obscured by changes in language over time.[lvii] He related the word earth to ‘mother’ through the already ancient earth goddess.[lviii]  In Ge or Gaia, the prefix ‘ge’ relates to modes of creation, and the idea that the earth ‘gives’. The prefix ‘ge’ survives in English words such as ‘geology’, the science of the earth, ‘geography’, the practice of drawing the earth and ‘geometry’, the origins of which were measuring the earth.[lix] Exactly the same prefix is also found in words that relate to maternal expressions of giving, such as giving birth. Obvious examples include ‘genitals’, ‘genetics’ and ‘genealogy’ with less obvious examples including ‘gentlemen’ and ‘gentry’ as classes of people who enjoy particular birth-rights. The earth has always been seen as ‘generous’, which means ‘of noble birth’.[lx]

Birth from the soil and birth from sexual activity are connected in the story of man’s creation from the earth and the connection between the first man’s name and earth, ‘Āḏām and ‘aḏāmah respectively, in Hebrew.[lxi] Greek mythology had the same with Hephaestus’ creation of man’s companion, Pandora, from earth mixed with water.[lxii] So, with reference to Latin, Isidore was following a long tradition when he declared that ‘humans’ are so-called ‘because they were made from the soil (humus)’.[lxiii] The profound connection between sex and agriculture is evident in the word ‘husband’. This title derives from being ‘house-bound’ in a legalistic, rather than a disabled, sense and what binds the husband to the house is the bed and the land. As a noun, it means a man joined to a woman, and as a verb, it means to till the soil.[lxiv] The link continues with twentieth-century slang such as to ‘have your oats’ or ‘sow wild oats’.[lxv]

Humans may be made of humus, but to be more precise, humans are traditionally made of a body and a soul, the soul being the immortal ‘sign’ of the person and the mortal body, a temporary ‘tomb’ for the soul.[lxvi] Earth is connected to the body, the exterior part that entombs the soul,[lxvii] and so relates not only to birth, but also to death. The earth’s double role – as something which both gives and receives – was noted by Shakespeare’s Friar Lawrence who played upon the earth as the ‘womb’ and ‘tomb’ of all material things.[lxviii] As Isidore said, ‘Each element [of our body] has its own physical part, something of which must be repaid [to the earth] when the composite dissolves.’[lxix] The connection is reinforced in the Book of Common Prayer with the phrase ‘earth to earth’, which is invoked upon the body’s internment and which echoes the Neolithic burial ritual of scattering red ochre over the deceased.[lxx]

Mother Earth’s ability to absorb her pro-gen-y was necessary in order to re-gen-erate and maintain her productive capacities. This aspect of burial is also reflected in the names of earth goddesses since the linguistic root of both Gaia and Demeter ‘frequently occurs in the context of hiding or covering things (or people)’.[lxxi] And earth itself was used to cover or hide things, for example, contemplating death, Hector wished to ‘hide’ and Achilles wished to ‘cover’ their bodies with earth.[lxxii] As well as covering or hiding the bodies of the deceased, earth envelops the roots of the plants, the subterranean regions, like Hades, and secreted riches, like gold.

Earth’s roles as both the support for visible life and the hidden abode of death are reflected in other artists’ names. So, for example, Cennini’s haematite and the colour ‘red’ are both related to blood, since red is rudhirás and blood is rudhirám in Sanskrit.[lxxiii] The red earths, and gemstones such as ruby,[lxxiv] were therefore associated with Mother Earth’s life-giving menstrual blood, as well as the individual’s life-blood that martial forces send back to earth.

Finally, one other meaning of the word ‘earth’ should be acknowledged. In the biblical and classical phrase ‘heaven and earth’, earth is half of all reality. This meaning relates especially to ‘umber’ through the Neoplatonic significance of shadows. At the time when Shakespeare used the word umber to mean both a shadow and a material that could emulate shadow, heaven was seen as an eternal reality and earth was its passing shadow. Heaven was the model and earth was its approximate copy.[lxxv] So, in addition to the literal darkness cast by light, shadow could also mean; a reflection, a representation, an image or a painting.[lxxvi] Painting with ‘umber’ is using a copy to create a copy of a copy.[lxxvii]

Matter and colour

Painting with ‘sienna’ merely uses the matter that Duccio’s feet may once have touched. Painting with ‘earth’, on the other hand, is painting with the matter of which, according to myth, all humans are made and the matter with which a significant proportion of all reality is hidden. And, as a thing that hides, earth etymologically reinforces the activity of painting since painting involves the application of colour. In turn, the word ‘colour’ is related to the Latin celare, to cover or conceal, making the colour of something merely its ‘outward show’. [lxxviii]

The stated purpose of semantic or poetic etymology (also achieved indirectly by some historic etymology) is to penetrate the ‘outward show’ of words and to reveal their essence. The etymology of ‘colour’, for example, helps account for the long-held view that some aspects of painting were considered superficial or deceptive. This is one of the reasons why colour has been relatively neglected in the history of art and why, whilst designo and colore are both necessary in painting, they have not always enjoyed equal status. When both were personified as feminine, colore was ‘bawd’,[lxxix] and when one was male and the other female, colour was said to be of secondary importance simply because it was feminine.[lxxx]

The matter that provides colours has been even more neglected. And in the case of the earth pigments, this is in complete accordance with the etymologies outlined above. The word humus shares the same root as ‘humble’, meaning to make lowly, as in humiliate, or to be lowly, as in human.[lxxxi] (Man is lowly with respect to the divine, since, according to Plato, the name of ‘man’ derives from to the Greek for ‘to look up’.[lxxxii]) The lowly earth pigments reflect the lowly status of matter – derived from mater, the trunk of a tree, or the mother of its limbs, branches and leaves – which, in European cultures, is deeply engendered, being related to ‘matriarch’ and ‘matron’.

If the design is the masculine side of a painting, then the materials are its feminine side. The earth pigments are parts of an earth goddess – Ceres, Proserpina, Demeter, Ge or Gaia – hewn, crushed, washed, ground and transported to become the humblest parts of the humblest aspect of a painting. And in this respect, it could be argued that the city of Siena has qualities that are appropriate for the name for a humble earth. After all, thanks to the Grand Tour, Siena became famous as a city of Renaissance art. ‘Renaissance’ literally means ‘re-birth’ but the original out-poring of art in Siena was due to its cult of the Virgin, the mother who in the European tradition most profoundly personifies humility.[lxxxiii] Of course, few earth pigments actually come from Siena and local earth – which lacks the prestige of exotic origins and is usually anonymous or misleadingly purveyed under more a more exalted name – is automatically humble.


This essay’s focus on an apparently insignificant detail – artists’ names for earth pigments – is an exercise in ‘microhistory’. The historian Luis Gonzalez called this style of cultural analysis ‘matria history’. He described it as a practice ‘suitable to evoking that small, weak, feminine, sentimental world of the mother which revolves around the family and the village’. He also called microhistory ‘yin history’, saying that is recalled all that is ‘feminine, conservative, terrestrial, sweet, obscure and painful’.[lxxxiv] A microhistory of earth’s names therefore reveals glimpses of deep-set cultural attitudes towards one of artists’ oldest materials. The pigment’s names are linguistic fossil-records of the ‘feminine, conservative, terrestrial, sweet, obscure and painful’ place these materials held when part of ‘the family and the village’. That significance was largely lost when the production of artists’ materials became a mainly urban industrial process, although faint echoes live-on in local place names and practices.

The whole earth’s trajectory, from venerated goddess to exploited resource, is reflected in earth pigments’ use in art. Earth pigments were once acknowledged as empowered – and empowering – parts of a goddess but their ritual significance has been forgotten.[lxxxv] And, further distancing us from earth, some of the pigments have now been replaced by man-made substitutes.[lxxxvi]

So it is not surprising that the natural pigments explored in this collaboration do not have particularly revealing names – they are just local ‘earths’. The work presented here aims to reclaim some of their values. The raw materials are unrecognised parts of the English countryside and they are not even necessarily from picturesque parts of that countryside. The earths that are physically present in these screen-prints are just ‘Other’, in keeping with the origin of the word ‘country’, which comes from contra, literally ‘against’ or ‘opposite’.[lxxxvii] These contra-pigmented prints are reminders that their matter and colour belonged first to nature before becoming part of culture. Earths grow-up in the wild before taking-up residence in art.

[i] M.-P. Pomiers, M. Menu and C. Vignaud, ‘Red Palaeolithic pigments; natural haematite or heated

goethite?’, Archaeometry, 41, 1999, pp. 275-85.

[ii] K. Helwig, ‘Iron Oxide Pigments: Natural and Synthetic’, in Artists’ Pigments, vol. 4, ed. B. Berrie,

National Gallery of Art, Washington, and Archetype, London, 2007, pp. 39-110.

[iii] S. Bucklow, The Alchemy of Paint, London, 2009, pp. 43-74.

[iv] Colour Index, 3rd ed., Society of Dyers and Colourists, Bradford, 1982.

[v] W. Gardiner, Chemical Synonyms and Trade Names, 7th ed. London, 1971.

[vi] Plusiers Secrets de Peinture, (VII, 23) in M. P. Merrifield, Original Treatises on the Arts of Painting,

New York, 1967, vol. 2, p. 810.

[vii] R. D. Harley, Artists’ Pigments, c.1600-1835, London, 1982, pp. 119-120.

[viii] Clearwell Colour, Clearwell Caves, nr. Coleford, Royal Forest of Dean, GL16 8JR.

[ix] L. Carlyle, The Artists’ Assistant, London, 2001, p. 506.

[x] Theophrastus, On Stones, tr. E. R. Caley and J. C. Richards, Columbus OH, 1956, pp. 175-8.

[xi] Cennino Cennini, (XL), The Craftsman’s Handbook, tr. D. V. Thompson, New York, 1960, p. 24.

[xii] Oxford English Dictionary Online version, accessed June 2012.

[xiii] Theophilus, On Divers Arts, (xxx), tr. J. G. Hawthorne and C. S. Smith, New York , 1979, p. 14.

[xiv] Cennino Cennini, Op cit., (XLII),  pp. 25-6.

[xv] See for example, de Mayerne, BM MS Sloane 1990, cited in Harley, Op cit., p. 121.

[xvi] Helwig, Op cit., p. 46.

[xvii] Herodotus, The Histories, (II, 12), tr. R. Waterfield, Oxford, 1998, p. 99.

[xviii] Albertus Magnus, Book of Minerals, (II, iii, 4), tr. D. Wyckoff, Oxford, 1967, pp. 138-9.

[xix] Pliny, Natural History, (xxxiv, 138), tr. H. Rackam, London, 1968, vol. 9, pp. 228-9.

[xx] Ibid., (xxxiv, 141), vol. 9, pp. 230-1.

[xxi] Albertus Magnus, Op cit., (II, ii, 5), p. 90.

[xxii] Plutarch, Greek Questions, (56), tr. W. R. Halliday, Oxford, 1928, pp. 207- 8.

[xxiii] OED, Online version, accessed June 2012.

[xxiv] The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, ed. C. T. Onions, Oxford, 1966, p. 622.

[xxv] John Smith, The Art of Painting in Oyl, London, 1685, p. 22.

[xxvi] Dictionary of National Biography, online version, accessed June 2012.

[xxvii] P. Robinson, ‘Endangered Species’, Turps Banana, 10, 2011, p. 42.

[xxviii] Roberson Archive, HKI MS 239-1993 folio 38a.

My thanks to Sally Woodcock for bringing this reference to my attention.

[xxix] The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, p. 955.

[xxx] G. P. Lomazzo, A Treacte containing the Artes of Curious Paintinge Carvinge and

Buildinge, trans. Richard Haydocke (Oxford ,1598) (Farnborough, 1970), p. 99.

[xxxi] As You Like It, (I, iii, 107-8).

[xxxii] Henry V, (IV, prologue, 9).

[xxxiii] The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, p. 826.

[xxxiv] P. Robinson, ‘Endangered Species’, Turps Banana, 10, 2011, p. 42.

[xxxv] T. Heyd, ‘Rock art aesthetics; trace on rock, mark of spirit, window on land’, Journal of Aesthetics

and Art Criticism, 57, 4, 1999, p. 455.

[xxxvi] Ian Garrett, Technical Director of Winsor and Newton (retired). Personal communication.

[xxxvii] W. R. Albury and D. R. Oldroyd, ‘ From Renaissance Mineral Studies to Historical Geology, in the

light of Foucault’s The Order of Things’, British Journal for the History of Science, 10, 3,

1977, pp.  187-215.

[xxxviii] Herodotus, Op cit., (VII, 131-8), pp. 448-50.

[xxxix] P. J. O’Reilly, ‘Notes on the Coronation Stone at Westminster and the Lia Fail at Tara’, Journal of

the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, (5th Series), 37, 1, 1902, p. 79.

[xl] R. B. Salisbury, ‘Engaging with soil, past and present’, Journal of Material Culture, 17, 2012, p. 31.

[xli] Bram Stoker, Dracula, London,1897.

[xlii] Apollodorus, The Library of Greek Mythology, (II, v, 11), tr. R. Hand, Oxford, 1998, p. 82.

[xliii] The OED notes the first use of ‘ochre’ as 1364, ‘umber’ as 1568 and ‘sienna’, 1774. Online version,

accessed June 2012.

[xliv] The OED notes over 7000 instances of the use of ‘earth’ predating 1050. Online version, accessed

June 2012.

[xlv] Plato, Cratylus, (1a), tr. H. N. Fowler, London, 1970, vol. 4, p. 7.

[xlvi] Genesis 2:20.

[xlvii] A. Willi, ‘Demeter, Ge, and the Indo-European words for ‘earth’’, Historische Sprachforschung /

Historical Linguistics, Bd. 120, 2007, pp. 169-194.

[xlviii] H. Marks, ‘Biblical naming and poetic etymology’, Journal of Biblical Literature, 114, 1, 1995,

pp. 28 and 34.

[xlix] II Corinthians 3:6. ‘… the letter killeth but the spirit giveth.’ (King James Version)

[l] J. Bronkhorst, ‘Etymology and magic; Yasha’s Nirukta, Plato’s Cratylus, and the riddle of semantic

etymologies’, Numen, 48, 2, 2001, pp. 147-203.

[li] The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, tr. and ed. S. A. Barney, W. J. Lewis, J. A. Beach and

O. Berghof, Cambridge, 2006, pp. 24-6.

[lii] Iterpretatio Nominis Ceciliae, ‘The Second Nun’s Tale’, The Canterbury Tales, tr. N. Coghill,

Harmondsworth, 1975, pp. 454-5.

[liii] J. Lovelock, Gaia, A new look at life on earth, Oxford, 2000.

[liv] OED Online version accessed June 2012.

[lv] The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, (VIII, xi, 59), p. 187.

[lvi] The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, (XIV, i, 1), p. 320.

[lvii] J. Bronkhorst, Op cit., pp. 165-8.

[lviii] Plato, Cratylus, (410b-c,), vol. 4, pp. 93-5.

[lix] Herodotus, The Histories, (II, 109), p. 136.

[lx] OED Online version accessed June 2012.

[lxi] Genesis 2:7. ‘… God formed man from the dust of the ground …’ (King James Version)

[lxii] Hesiod, Theogony, (571), tr. M. L. West, Oxford, 1966, p. 133.

[lxiii] The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, (XI, i, 4), p. 231.

[lxiv] The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, p. 454.

[lxv] OED, (‘Oat’, phrases, colloquial), online version, accessed June 2012. See also Genesis 49:25-26 and

Deuteronomy 33:13-15, variants on Genesis 27:28 as supplications for fertility

[lxvi] Plato, Cratylus, (400c), vol. 4, p. 63.

[lxvii] The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, (XI, i, 6), p. 231.

[lxviii] Romeo and Juliet, (II, iii, 5-6).

[lxix] The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville, (XI, i, 14), p. 232.

[lxx] P.  van de Velde, et al, ‘The Social anthropology of a Neolithic Cemetery in the Netherlands’,

Current Anthropology, 20, 1, 1979, p. 39.

[lxxi] A. Willi, Op cit., p. 190.

[lxxii] Homer, Illiad, (6, 464 and 18, 332), tr. E.V. Rieu, Harmondsworth, 2003, pp. 112 and 328.

[lxxiii] The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, p. 748.

[lxxiv] De Rosnel, Le Mercue Indien, (1672), p. 12, in M. Eliade, The Forge and the Crucible,

Chicago, 1978, p.44.

[lxxv] I Corinthians 13:12. ‘…now we see through a glass darkly … now I know in part …’ (KJV)

[lxxvi] A. Gash, ‘Shakespeare’s comedies of shadow and substance; word and image in Henry IV and

Twelfth Night’, Word and Image, 4, 3-4, 1988, p. 629.

[lxxvii] Plato described figurative art (made with unspecified materials) as ‘a third remove from reality’ or

as a copy of a copy. Plato, The Republic, (597e), tr. D. Lee, Harmondsworth, 1974, p. 425.

[lxxviii] The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, p. 192.

[lxxix] C. A. du Fresnoy, The Art of Painting (1667), in J. Gage, ‘Color in Western Art: An Issue?’, Art

Bulletin, 72, 4, 1990, p. 519.

[lxxx] C. Blanc, Grammaire des arts du dessin, Paris, 1867, p. 22, cited in Gage, Op cit., p. 519.

[lxxxi] The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology, p. 452.

[lxxxii] Plato, Cratylus, (399c ), vol. 4, p. 59.

[lxxxiii] T. Burckhardt, Siena, City of the Virgin, Bloomington, 2008.

[lxxxiv] L. Gonzalez, Invenciaon a la microhistoria, Mexico City, 1972, p. 14, in C. Ginzburg,

‘Microhistory: two or three things I know about it’, Critical Inquiry, 20, 1, 1993, p. 12.

[lxxxv] Since this essay has focussed on words, it is worth recalling that ‘forgetting’ is the opposite of

‘re-membering’ so the loss of earth pigments’ cultural significance is part of the ‘dis-

membering’ of the world-view that once embraced Earth and all her parts.

[lxxxvi] P. Robinson, “Endangered Species”, Turps Banana, 10, 2011, p. 43.

[lxxxvii] OED online version, accessed June 2012.