A natural, bright red dye obtained from the body of the female insects Dactylopius coccus Costa (formerly Coccus cacti) that live on nopal cactus (Cactus oputia or C. coccinilifera) in Mexico, the Canary Islands, and in Central and South America. Cochineal was imported to Europe as early as 1540 where it quickly replaced kermes as the primary red dyestuff. The insects are collected from the cacti, then killed and dried in the sun or in an oven. The dye is extracted from dried insects using water or alcohol. It contains about 10% carminic acid, 2% coccerin wax and 10% fat. The colorant was usually used as either a red solution or precipitated to make carmine, an aluminum or aluminum-tin lake. Cochineal produces a transparent lake pigment that has poor lightfastness and fades in strong sunlight.
Synonyms and Related Terms
Natural Red 4; CI 75470; cochenille (Fr.); Cochenille (Deut.); cocciniglia (It.); cochinilla (Esp.); Nopalschildlaus (Deut.); Koschenille (Deut.); Karmin (Deut.); kogchinili (Gr.); cocciniglia (It.); cochenille (Ned.); cochonilha (Port.); cochinilha (Port.); carmine; crimson lake; grana; purple lake; red lake; Florentine lake; Venice lake; Paris lake; Vienna lake; nochestli; Nupal's blood; globe lake, karmesin lake; Munich lake; metica; mestique; grana finia; grana silvestra; zacatilla (black cochineal); Dactylopius coccus; Coccus cacti
Acid-base indicator: a 1% alcohol solution is red when acidic and changes to violet above pH 6.
ASTM (1999) lightfastness = V (very poor)
H. Schweppe, H.Roosen-Runge, "Carmine-Cochineal, Carmine and Kermes Carmine", Artists Pigments, Volume 1, R. Feller (ed.), Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1986.
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- Palmy Weigle, Ancient Dyes for Modern Weavers, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York, 1974 Comment: dye brought to Europe in the early 16th century
- Judith Hofenk-de Graaff, Natural Dyestuffs: Origin, Chemical Constitution, Identification, Central Research Laboratory for Objects of Art and Science, Amsterdam, 1969 Comment: imported in 1540 to Antwerp
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