Alum – A Material at the Crossroads of the Arts, Crafts, and Learned Inquiry

Alum – A Material at the Crossroads of the Arts, Crafts, and Learned Inquiry

Sven Dupre, Sylvie Neven, Marjolijn Bol

During medieval and pre-modern times, alum was used for a variety of purposes in artistic and craft contexts. Alum was one of the most important chemical compounds involved in the dyeing of textiles and the manufacture of organic lakes, used in painting and illuminating techniques. It acts as a siccative agent in the preparation of oils and varnishes. It was employed in the making of glues, in the coloration and the treatment of various supports (bones, parchment, paper, wax), in the manufacture of pigments, such as verdigris, and the purification of ultramarine. Part of an international scientific coordination network on the “Exploitation of Mediterranean Alums in Europe”, this project in the making on the history of alum aims at writing the history of the use of alum in the arts, crafts and learned inquiry. Investigating the history of alum, we consider the interconnectness and dissemination of knowledge between the arts, crafts and learned inquiry and the various ways in which it relied on commercial, cultural, technological and scientific exchanges.