Caput Mortuum Dark



 Purplish red-brown pigment, often described as a ‘dried-blood’ color obtained from the darkest hematite ferric oxide and magnesium. Used in antiquity, but not known by this name; the original source of this color has never been determined. It was a ‘purple’ color to Medieval and Renaissance artists, especially Italian paintings. The color was considered similar to rare and costly Tyrian (murex) purple dye. Very popular with 16th century artists for painting the robes of saints, angels, and often the clothing of the patron paying for the artwork.  Lightfast, opaque, medium tinting strength, mixes with any medium and pigment; good fresco color. Needs a lot of grinding for good smooth oil paints.

AKA: Cardinal purple, violet hematite, [It] Amatisto, o ver amatito (both mean ‘lac color’), [Lat] caput mortuum (death’s head)

Caput mortuum tints painted by Elizabeth Comer


  • Country of origin: Germany
  • Transparency: Semi-transparent
  • Compatibility: Acrylics, Lime / Fresco, Ceramic, Oil, Tempera, Watercolor / Gouache, Silicate binder
  • Lightfastness: Medium
  • Composition: Pigment Red 101, C.I. 77491
  • Chemical formula: Mixture of Fe2O3, MgO, Al2O3, TiO2, MgSO4, SiO2
  • MSDS/SDS avail: Yes




Additional information

Weight 5 oz

2 oz, 4 oz



Historical Background

Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance

Color Family





  1. Elizabeth (verified owner)

    Deep berry purple, both this color and cote d’azur make beautiful shading colors.

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