Art Fact Friday: Tamara Natalie Madden often uses deep purples and blues as skin tones for the figures in her artworks, the use of this color helps to deify the figure in two ways: One, elevating the figures above the ordinary. Two, these colors both have historically been regal colors that portrayed wealth because of how rare and expensive the colors were.
In the past, the Phoenicians’ “Tyrian purple” came from a species of sea snail now known as Bolinus brandaris, and it was so exceedingly rare that it became worth its weight in gold.* As for the best royal blue, natural ultramarine was the most expensive colorant with a price sometimes exceeding that of gold. It was, therefore, used very sparingly and the highest quality ultramarine was often reserved for painting the robes of Mary and the infant Christ in religious images.*