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Red Lead (Minium) [100 g jar] (3.5 oz)

Item No: 457:100100
Category: 28

Price:  $9.50
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Caution! Poisonous Substance. For Professional Use Only [100 g jar] (3.5 oz)
Minium, which has been known as "red lead", is an oxidation product of other lead minerals. Minium gets its name from the Minius River in Northwest Spain, where the native mineral was mined since antiquity. The name, minium has also been applied to cinnabar, a red mercury sulfide, but now it is exclusively used worldwide to refer to red lead oxide. The artificially produced minium is used as a pigment in paints and dyes although the health concerns of lead have greatly diminished this role.

Pigment Names
Common Names
Chinese: ch'ien tan or tan-fen
English: red lead
French: minium or minium de plomb
German: Mennige or Bleimennige
Italian: minio or minio di piombo
Japanese: etan
Russian: свинцовци
Spanish: minio
Common Names
English: minium
French: minium
German: Mennige
Italian: minio
Russian: сурик
Spanish: minio or azarcon, from Arabic zarqūn
Alternate Names: English: mine rouge, mineral red, Paris red, red lead, Sandix, Saturnine, Saturn red
Italian: rosso saturno

Origin and History
Red lead was used in the classical world at least since the 2nd century C.E. According to Ralph Mayer [The Artist's Handbook, p. 51], the Romans had applied the word minium to their native vermilion, cinnabar, and to a lesser extent, to a refined red oxide. Perhaps because cinnabar was often adulterated with red lead the term "minimum" was gradually more specifically applied to this mixture, and eventually to straight red lead. Cennino Cennini simply says of it, "A color known as red lead is red, and it is manufactured by alchemy." In medieval Latin it was called minium, and its extensive use in medieval illuminated manuscripts gives us the word "miniature", although it is purely coincidental that these works were small (to fit on the page). The Indian and Persian miniatures of the 17th to 19th centuries, which also feature red lead abundantly, are often finely detailed but not necessarily small at all. Red lead was used as a substitute for genuine Vermilion because it was a less expensive pigment.

Red lead is made by heating litharge or white lead for some hours at a temperature of about 480 C. The pigment is bright scarlet, has good hiding power and excellent texture. It is finely divided but may be either crystalline or amorphous, depending upon how it is made. Chemically, red lead is fairly active. When exposed to light and air it is not a particularly stable pigment. In spite of its bright color and good covering power artists do not much use it now, although it is still obtainable. Minium (red lead) is composed primarily of lead tetroxide (Pb3O4) 85 to 98% and litharge (PbO) 15 to 2%.

Permanence and Compatibility
Minium is liable to discoloration in the presence of hydrogen sulfide. It reacts upon some pigments, on the cadmium yellows, for example. It is not usable as a watercolor pigment. As a pigment, it quickly turns dark in the light, but when mixed with oil (and it requires only 15% binder), it is fairly permanent. When mixed in oil with white lead, it tends to fade rather than turn dark, and stands up better than white lead with vermilion. It is best used as an oil color or in encaustic paint; as a powder and in fresco it eventually turns black. Freshly ground is best, and when red lead is produced under insufficient heat, red-yellow oxide forms, which is not sufficiently permanent. This can be eliminated by washing with sugar-water. When it is ground in oil, a little wax should be added to guard against its hardening too quickly. Red lead ground in oil dries the quickest of all pigments.

Oil Absorption and Grinding
Red lead absorbs a very low amount of oil. The oil absorption ratio is 100 parts by weight of pigment to 6 parts by weight of linseed oil. If the measurement were grams, it would require 6 grams (by weight) of linseed oil to grind 100 grams (by weight) of pigment to form a stiff paste. It makes a very fast drying oil paint, and forms a hard, flexible film.

Red lead is highly toxic, and utmost care should be used in handling the dry powder pigment to avoid inhaling the dust or ingesting the pigment in any form.

Pigment: Red Lead (Minium)

Pigment Information
Color: Red
Colour Index: Pigment Red 105 (77518)
Chemical Name: Lead Tetroxide
Chemical Formula: Pb3O4
ASTM Lightfastness Rating
Acrylic: Not Rated
Oil: Not Rated
Watercolor: Not Rated
Density: 8.99.2
Hardness: 2.53.0
Refractive Index: nα=2.400 What's This?

Read cautions about handling pigments

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