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It was with four colours only,1 that Apelles,2 Echion, Melanthius, and Nicomachus, those most illustrous painters, executed their immortal works; melinum3 for the white, Attic sil4 for the yellow, Pontic sinopis for the red, and atramentum for the black;5 and yet a single picture of theirs has sold before now for the treasures of whole cities. But at the present day, when purple is employed for colouring walls even, and when India sends to us the slime6 of her rivers, and the corrupt blood of her dragons7 and her elephants, there is no such thing as a picture of high quality produced. Everything, in fact, was superior at a time when the resources of art were so much fewer than they now are. Yes, so it is; and the reason is, as we have already stated,8 that it is the material, and not the efforts of genius, that is now the object of research.

1 Pliny here commits a mistake, which may have arisen from an imperfect recollection, as Sir. H. Davy has supposed, of a passage in Cicero (Brutus, c. 18), which, however, quite contradicts the statement of Pliny. "In painting, we admire in the works of Zeuxis, Polygnotus, Timanthes, and those who used four colours only, the figure and the lineaments; but in the works of Echion, Nicomachus, Protogenes, and Apelles, everything is perfect." Indeed Pliny contradicts himself, for he speaks of two others colours used by the earliest painters, the testa trita, or ground earthenware, in Chapter 5 of this Book; and "cinnabaris," or vermilion, in B. xxxiii. c. 36. Also, in Chapter 21 of this Book he speaks of Eretrian earth as having been used by Nicomachus, and in Chapter 25 of ivory black as having been invented by Apelles.

2 These painters will all be noticed in Chapter 36.

3 See Chapter 19 of this Book.

4 See B. xxxiii. c. 56.

5 Blue is here excluded altogether, unless under the term "atramentum" we would include black and blue indicum, or in other words, Indian ink and indigo.

6 See Chapter 27 of this Book.

7 In allusion to "Dragon's blood." See B. xxxiii. c. 38.

8 In Chapter 2 of this Book.

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