Green Lion Colour Palette

This Internet site takes a look at how the great artists have used colour straight from the palette, mixed pigments, and contrasted and modulated colours on the canvas. From a computer or a television screen the retina of the eye receives additive colours combining, as wavelengths are added, to make white light.


The vibrant colours, shapes and soft curved lines which characterise paintings by Franz Marc (1880-1916) make his work instantly appealing. He is best remembered for his images of animals, especially of horses. As one of the leading figures of the German Expressionists, and co-founder of the group Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) Marc spoke in terms of the "animalisation" of art since he believed so strongly in the possibilities held by the representation of animals. In attempting to convey and emphasise the spiritual aspect of his subject matter, Marc often depicted animals in non-naturalistic colours. He developed his own colour theory and symbolism, which equated the three primary colours with qualities and emotions. In its simplest terms, Marc associated:

  1. blue with masculinity and spirituality;
  2. yellow an earthy colour with femininity;
  3. red another earthy colour with violence.

Lions and other Animals

  • Many fantastical creatures are depicted along the borders of the Bayeux Tapestry.
  • Lining the Marco Polo Bridge are two rows of carved white marble balustrades topped by posts carved with figures of stone lions.
  • The western entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago Building on Michigan Avenue, is guarded by two bronze lion statues.
  • Zodiac is from the Greek "circle of little animals" - Leo, the Lion is the fifth astrological sign. There were originally 11 signs, with Libra the Scales being added to the "zoo" at a later date. The West Rose Window of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris has a full set of the signs of the Zodiac.

Green Lion Alchemy

The designations Green Lion or verdigris are to be found in many alchemical works. Thus Basilius Valentinus writes,

"Dissolve and nourish the Red Lion with the blood of the Green Lion, since the fixed blood of the Red Lion is made from the volatile blood of the green one, which makes them both of the same nature."

The alchemists associated the Green Lion with colour changes within a cycle, moving from an initial blackness to the perfection of the quintessence: therefore the vera prima materia, the true first matter. The Green Lion devouring the Sun is understood to have symbolised the transformation of metal: as a solvent it may represent mercury or antimony; and is also associated with acids: vitriol and aqua regia (a mixture of concentrated nitric acid and concentrated hydrochloric acid).

The Green Lion devouring the Sun represents the turning of base metal into gold in medieval alchemy. Register on this site to contribute.

Alchemy Timeline

  • 14th century - The Canon's Yeoman's Tale. in the series The Canterbury Tales.
  • 16th century - The Hermetic And Alchemical Writings Of Paracelsus.
  • 1610 - First recorded performance of Ben Jonson's comedy The Alchemist by the King's Men in Oxford.
  • 1661 - Publication of The Sceptical Chymist in which Robert Boyle criticised Paracelsus and the old Aristotelian concepts of the elements:
    • For Helmont do's more than once Inform his Readers, that both Paracelsus and Himself were Possessors of the famous Liquor, Alkahest, which for its great power in resolving Bodies irresoluble by Vulgar Fires, he somewhere seems to call Ignis Gehennæ. To this Liquor he ascribes, (and that in great part upon his own Experience) such wonders, that if we suppose them all true, I am so much the more a Friend to Knowledge than to Wealth, that I should think the Alkahest a nobler and more desireable Secret than the Philosopher's Stone itself.
  • 1669 - While trying to make the Philosopher's Stone Hennig Brandt discovered phosphorus.
  • 1946 - John Maynard Keynes prepared his essay, "Newton, the Man":
    • "Newton was not the first of the age of reason. He was the last of the magicians".
Amazon Books
Image of The Alchemy of Paint: Art, Science and Secrets from the Middle Ages: Colour and Meaning Fom the Middle Ages
Author: Spike Bucklow
Publisher: Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd (2009)
Binding: Paperback, 362 pages
Image of In Pursuit of the Green Lion: A Margaret of Ashbury Novel (Margaret of Ashbury Trilogy)
Author: Judith Merkle Riley
Publisher: Three Rivers Press (CA) (2006)
Binding: Paperback, 451 pages