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Bo tree Ficus religiosa


A resinous substance excreted by the female of the lac insect, Laccifer lacca, native to India. The insects primarily deposit lac on the twigs and soft new branches of several varieties of soapberry and acacia trees, such as the sacred fig, Ficus religiosa, found in India, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and elsewhere in southeast Asia. Lac was used as early as about 1200 BCE in India. Shellac and lac dye were imported to Europe in the 17th century. The resin coated twigs, also called sticklac, undergoes several processing steps to extract useful components. Lac is used in the manufacture of varnishes (Shellac), sealing wax (Lac wax) and red colorants (Lac dye).

Stick lac

Synonyms and Related Terms

Laccifer lacca; Coccus lacca; gomme laque (Fr.); laca (Esp., Port.); lacca (It); lac resin; sticklac; lack; lacca; shellac

Resources and Citations

  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966 Comment: insect = Tacchardia lacca; gives 16c as first use in Europe
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 705
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing) Comment: insect = Coccus lacca
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982 Comment: insect = Coccus lacca
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, Comment: "lac" [Accessed February 6, 2003]; insect = Laccifer lacca; gives 17th c. for first use in Europe
  • The Dictionary of Art, Grove's Dictionaries Inc., New York, 1996 Comment: "Pigments"; insect = Kerria lacca
  • Art and Architecture Thesaurus Online,, J. Paul Getty Trust, Los Angeles, 2000