A First Approach to the Study of Winsor & Newton’s 19th-Century Manufacture of Madder Red Lake Pigments

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This paper focuses on the first investigation of the 19th-century manufacture of red lake pigments obtained from madder by Winsor & Newton (W&N), prominent artists’ colourman at that time. The first approach to their manufacture was carried out by studying the madder entries of the company’s book P1, found in the W&N 19th Century Archive Database. Eleven production records were discovered under names such as Rose Madder, Madder Carmine, Madder Lake and Madder Rose. Three main methods of synthesis were identified and reproduced, revealing three main steps: washing of the madder roots (Rubia tinctorum L.); extraction in acid media and complexation with Al3+ using alum; and precipitation by the addition of salts such as ammonium carbonate and sodium borate. The syntheses were followed by UV-VIS spectroscopy, and the pigments were further characterised by colourimetry, Energy-Dispersive X-Ray Fluorescence Spectrometry (XRF), Fourier Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR) and High-Performance Liquid Chromatography-Diode Array Detector (HPLC-DAD). They all exhibited a rose hue in a highly insoluble aluminate matrix. Although the dye extraction was incomplete, alizarin, purpurin and pseudopurpurin were identified. An analytical comparison with a Rose Madder 19th-century oil paint tube was also performed by micro-FTIR and microspectrofluorimetry. This work intends to be foundational to a systematic study of the W&N’s 19th-century madder colours aiming to contribute new knowledge towards their identification and preservation in heritage objects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3606-3621
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2023


  • 19th-century manufacture
  • heritage preservation
  • madder
  • multi-analytical characterisation
  • Winsor & Newton


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