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Malachite

Bremen green, Olympian green, copper green

Science and Art Initiative supported by
the cogito foundation

Pigments sorted by:     Colour   |   Type   |  First date of use   |  Elements  | |  Timelines

Malachite is basic copper carbonate with the chemical formula of CuCO3·Cu(OH)2.

 

German: Malachit  |  French: malachite  |  Italian: malachitoo  |  Spanish: malaquita

Pigment Green 39, (PG 39) Colour Index: C.I. 77492

 

Crystal structure

 

Malachite-unit-cell-3D-balls

orange = copper, red = oxygen, black = carbon, white = hydrogen

Chemical stability:

Malachite is not stable at high temperatures, its decomposition begins at about 200 °C. Malachite, as all carbonates, is dissolved by even dilute acids but is unafected by cold solutions of hydroxides.

 

Stability to light:

The pigment is lightfast.

 

References

(1) R.J. Gettens and E. W. Fitzhugh, Malachite and Green Verditer, in Artists’ Pigments. A Handbook of Their History and Characteristics, Vol. 2: A. Roy (Ed.) Oxford University Press 1993, p. 183 – 202. Available as pdf from the National Gallery of Art. Buy this book atAmazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon DE.

The pigment can be prepared from the mineral malachite by grounding, washing and levigating the raw material.

Azurite-Malachite

Minerals malachite (green) and azurite (blue). Image Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com

 

Malachite can also be prepared in the laboratory by a reaction of copper (II) sulfate and sodium carbonate.

12,5 g hydrated copper (II) sulfate CuSO4.5H2O are dissolved in 50 mL deionized water. A solution of 5,8 g Na2CO3 in 55 mL deionized water is then added slowly to the first solution while mixing vigorously.

 

preparation of malachite 1

 

After adding about 40 mL of the sodium carbonate solution the mixture starts to liberate gaseous carbon dioxide.

 

preparation of malachite 2

 

The resulting mixture is then left standing for one to two days at a temperature of 5 to 10 °C. The precipitate is then washed twice with deionized water, filtered and dried.

 

preparation of malachite 3

 

Microphotography

microphotograph_malachite

(image © Volker Emrath)

Spectroscopy

 

Fiber optics reflectance spectra (FORS)

FORS spectrum of Malachite Spectra by A. Cosentino, Cultural Heritage Science Open Source (CHSOS)

 

IR Spectroscopy

1. IR Spectrum of malachite in the ATR-FT-IR spectra of different pure inorganic pigments, University of Tartu, Estonia

2. IR Spectrum of malachite in linseed oil by S. Vahur, Database of ATR-IR spectra of materials related to paints and coatings, University of Tartu, Estonia

IR-spectrum_malachite_linseed_oil

 

 

Raman Spectroscopy


Raman_spectrum_malachite

 

Spectrum by Ian M. Bell, Robin J.H. Clark and Peter J. Gibbs, Raman Spectroscopic Library
University College of London

X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (XRF)

XRF Spectrum in the Free XRF Spectroscopy Database of Pigments Checker, CHSOS website.

Malachite has been used in ancient Egypt, but despite its abundance it was seldom used in European oil painting. The following graph gives the frequency of its use in the paintings of the Schack Collection in the Bavarian State Art Collections in Munich (1).

malachite_history_of_use

 

Example of use

 

RAPHAEL_-_Sistine_Madonna_1513-14

Raphael, Sistine Madonna, 1513-14

The green drapery in the upper part of the Sistine Madonna is painted in malachite with addition of lead white, charcoal black, and orpiment.

 

References

(1) Kühn, H., Die Pigmente in den Gemälden der Schack-Galerie, in: Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Ed.) Schack-Galerie (Gemäldekataloge Bd. II), München 1969.

(1) R.J. Gettens and E. W. Fitzhugh, Malachite and Green Verditer, in Artists’ Pigments. A Handbook of Their History and Characteristics, Vol. 2: A. Roy (Ed.) Oxford University Press 1993, p. 183 – 202. Available as pdf from the National Gallery of Art. Buy this book atAmazon US, Amazon UK, Amazon DE.

(2) Schweizer, F. und Mühletaler, B. Einige Grüne und Blaue Kupferpigmente, Farbe und Lack, 74 1968, s. 1159-73.

(3) Muntwyler, S. Malachit. Heiss umkämpfter Rohstoff Kupfer, in Cattaneo, C., Muntwyler, S., Rigert, M. and Schneider HP., Ed. Farbpigmente, Farbstoffe, Farbgeschichten, 2nd revised edition, Alata Verlag, Winterthur 2011, p. 160-167.

Examples of use

Green pigments

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