Forbes Pigment Database
The Forbes’ Pigment Collection contains over 1000 colorants assembled by the late Edward Waldo Forbes, former Director of the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University (1909-1945). Currently, the core collection of pigments is housed in the Straus Center for Conservation at Harvard University while Forbes’ private collection of pigments resides at the Institute for Fine Arts Conservation Center at New York University. Known subsets of these two collections exist in several additional laboratories around the world (see bottom of page for institution list). These colorants have been analyzed widely by most of the labs and thus the goal of this database is to provide one central, searchable, readily-accessible location for the compilation of any available information from all sources. The combination of this information will document the materials and aid in the determination of their compositions.
Inventory lists and analysis results for the pigments are being added to the database as they are received. The pigment sets have varying numerical designations and limited bottle labeling. Where it appears that more than one lab has portions of the same sample (based on the number or label), the records are combined. The most common numbering systems are: 1) the 'new' system devised by Richard Buck based on the pigment’s color and chemical composition and 2) the 'old' or original numbers from the NYU collection. All numbers associated with a particular sample are included in the Pigment number field for searching purposes.
While this list may not be comprehensive, the following institutions are recognized as having subsets of these two collections. Additionally, many institutions further developed their collections with additional materials. One significant set is a collection of Asian pigments produced by Rutherford Gettens, Fogg Art Museum, and Richard Buck, Intermuseum Conservation Laboratory. This collection now resides at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and small subsets exist in other labs.