Posted 4 years ago
The collapsible tin paint tube was invented in 1841, and by 1860 or so they were in general use. Early watercolor paint sets with powered cakes are seen on occasion, but sets like the one above with corked and bottled colors to be mixed by the artist are scarce indeed. In around 1827 (?) the British company Ackermann sold a paint box, but an auction catalog indicates "early marked pigment bottles are almost unheard of to be found..." so certainly an entire set such as this is scarce indeed.
"PIGMENT ANALYSIS OF EARLY AMERICAN WATERCOLORS AND FRAKTUR" by Janice H. Carlson, & John Krill is an analysis of the composition of early American Fraktur paints published in the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation in 1978. It concluded fraktur painters used commercially available pigments and illustrates a similar kit (without bottles) a paint set from the Mercer Museum of The Bucks County Historical Society. It is called a Fraktur Painter's Box. The article has been cited frequently, but I find few other examples of sets this early either illustrated or discussed.
Certainly the earliest painters had to mix their own pigments with oil, and some materials were even stored in bladders. It was apparently dangerous work...the chemicals were toxic when inhaled. Considerable study has been done on British painter J.M.W. Turner's paint box which also includes analysis of dry pigments found in test tube like bottles after his death.
I welcome comments or contributions to the history of a set like this. Could this be one of the earliest commercial paint sets existing?