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Book: The Alchemy of Paint

Chapter: Dragonsblood: The Fruit of Mortal Combat

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.45922


Dragonsblood is made from the mixed, coagulated blood of dragons and elephants. This might seem unlikely but appearances can be deceptive. Unlike the non-existent metallic blues, with their apparently straightforward recipes, dragonsblood actually does exist despite its distinctly implausible recipe. One might consider the pigment’s alleged origins to be poetic packaging for prosaic ingredients, instructions and rules. But the poetry is not peripheral – it is central to the traditional world view.

Artists’ descriptions of dragonsblood are consistent with a much wider and older tradition. For millennia, it was generally agreed that dragons and elephants fought to the death and the blood they spilt produced a red pigment. The account is mythological and, as we will see, myths have their own ingredients, instructions and rules.

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