Vandyke brown

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Vandyke brown


Vandyke Brown, also known as Cassel earth, is a brown, organic Humus, Peat, or Coal that contains iron oxides. It was first used in the 17th century and is still in use. Early sources for Vandyke brown were from the Cologne and Kassel regions of Germany with the regional source providing the pigment name. The brown earth has since been obtained from various localities each of which may differ slightly in color and composition. To add to this confusion some pigments labeled Vandyke brown were bituminous while others were synthetically made from from Carbon black and iron oxide mixtures. When natural Vandyke brown is ignited, the pigment leaves a soft gray residue. It is not soluble in petroleum solvents. The colorant has poor lightfastness and fades on exposure to UV radiation.


Van Dyke Brown, MFA Forbes 15.TIF

Synonyms and Related Terms

van Dyke Brown; Natural Brown 8; CI 77727; terre de Cologne (Fr.); terre de Cassel (Fr.); brun van Dyck (Fr.); terra di Colonia (It.);terra di Cassel (It.); Van Dyck Braun (Deut.); Kasslerbraun (Deut.); Kasseler Erde (Deut.); Kölnische Erde (Deut.); tierra de Cassel (Esp.); pardo Van Dyck (Esp.); Cassel earth; Cassel's earth; cologne earth; Cassel brown; Kassel earth; ulmin brown; bruno Vandyck; Ruben's brown; coal brown; sap brown dye


  • No significant hazards.

Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Irregular particle shape with little, if any, birefringence
  • Burns producing a tarry smoke and gray residue.
  • Soluble in alkalis.
  • Fades in sunlight.
  • Density = 1.66
  • Refractive Index = 1.62-1.69

Resources and Citations

  • R.Feller, R.Johnston-Feller, "Vandyke Brown", Artists Pigments, Volume 3, E. West FitzHugh (ed.), Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1997.
  • Georgiana Languri, Molecular studies of Asphalt, Mummy and Kassel earth pigments, MOLART report 2004, available through Archetype Publications, London.
  • Helmut Schweppe, Schweppe color collection index and information book
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 452
  • Reed Kay, The Painter's Guide To Studio Methods and Materials, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1983
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • R.D. Harley, Artists' Pigments c. 1600-1835, Butterworth Scientific, London, 1982
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Book and Paper Group, Paper Conservation Catalog, AIC, 1984, 1989
  • Website:
  • Colour Index International online at