Pliny Natural History By Pliny the Elder; translated by H. Rackham


During working for my project Indigo Act 1860 I traced the expression ‘ultra marine’, which I earlier discovered as the blue pigment in European art. So I read the book Natural History written by Pliny the Elder.

I regard this as one of the most precious books for contemporary art practice and still highly relevant.

I mainly focus on the chapter XXXVII: Here, Pliny the Elder writes: "of next greatest importance after this is indigo a product of India, being a slime that adheres to scum upon reeds. When it is sifted out it is black, but in dilution it yields a marvellous mixture of purple and blue. There is another kind of it that floats on the surface of the pans, in the purple dye shops, and this is the scum of purple".

In the same chapter he describes "The price of Indigo is 20 denarii per pound. Used medicinally it allays cramps and fits and dries up soars."

This book is one of the wonderful evidence of human history when people started observing ‘the nature’ in a socio-cultural context. It also depicts the trade of natural resources and its material values at that time. It opens up a new era of discovery, on which our knowledge of natural resources is based upon.  Studying the properties of nature is the key that underpins the practice of modern scientific inventions.

Today I observe that human greed is highly focused on the exploitative consumption of natural resources rather than sustaining it. This book influenced me in order to bring more environmental issues/objects into my art practice.