Alizarin, natural

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Madder plant Rubia tinctoria


Western madder

Natural alizarin is a red colorant extracted along with Purpurin from the roots of the Madder plant, Rubia tinctorum L.. The chemical name for alizarin is 1,2-dihydroxyanthraquinone. It has been used as a dye and pigment since ancient times. The colorant was first isolated in 1862 by Colin and Robiquet in France. The synthetic form of alizarin was first made in 1868 by German chemists Carl Graebe and Carl Lieberman, from Anthracene. The natural colorant was no longer used as a textile dye after the commercial introduction of the synthetic alizarin in 1871.

Synonyms and Related Terms

Rubia tinctorum L.; Natural Red 9, 6, 8, 10, 11, 12; CI 75330; madder; alizarine; 1,2-dihydroxyanthraquinone; seiyo-akane (Jap.); alitsariini (Fin.); alizarine (Fr.); alizarina (Esp.); alizarina (It.); alizarina, natural (Port.)

Painted cotton fragment
MFA# 30.121

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Alizarin is soluble in hexane and chloroform
  • Melting point = 277-278 C
  • Refractive Index = 1.70

Resources and Citations

  • H.Schweppe, J.Winter, "Madder and Alizarin", Artists Pigments, Vol. 3, E. West FitzHugh (ed.), Oxford University Press:Oxford, 1997.
  • Pigments Through the Ages: Madder Lake
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971
  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • Reed Kay, The Painter's Guide To Studio Methods and Materials, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1983
  • Thomas B. Brill, Light Its Interaction with Art and Antiquities, Plenum Press, New York City, 1980
  • R.Feller, M.Curran, C.Bailie, 'Identification of Traditional Organic Colorants Employed in Japanese Prints and Determination of their Rates of Fading', Japanese Woodblock Prints, Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Oberlin, 1984
  • Website: pigments/indiv/technical/alizarin.html RI=1.70 for alizarin, and 1.66 for madder lake

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