Verdigris is a green/blue pigment used by painters throughout the 13th to 19th centuries. The Old French/Anglo French origin of the word should come to no surprise, as France monopolized the manufacture of the pigment for almost 700 years: "verdigris" is derived from vert-de-gris (green of grey) or vert-de-Grece (green of Greece). But as Webster 1913 notes, the word is actually a corruption from the Latin viride aeris (cf. aerugo, aeruginous).

The application of verdigris in ancient Greek and Roman culture is well documented. Dioscorides describes a method of preparing verdigris in his De Materia Medica (first century B.C.). Pliny noted that aeruca can be scraped of natural copper ore, and Theophilus describes several different types of verdigris, namely viride hispanicum and viride salsum]. But the application of verdigris is much older; around 2500 B.C., the Egyptians already used copper compounds for various applications, and the material appears in the records as early as 1500 B.C.

Ancient cultures of course had no knowledge of the chemical composition of verdigris. All verdigris pigments consist of Copper Acetate, Cu(CH3COO)2. The various green/blue tones are obtained by small changes in the chemical environment, and mainly the pH (acidity). Typical verdigris compositions are:

     [Cu(CH3COO)2]2.Cu(OH)2.5H2O (blue)
     Cu(CH3COO)2.Cu(OH)2.5H2O (blue)
     Cu(CH3COO)2.[Cu(OH)2]2  (blue)
     Cu(CH3COO)2.[Cu(OH)2]3.2H2O (green)

Verdigris was produced from Acetic Acid (vinegar) and copper. Vinegar was of course available in sufficient quantities in the wine producing regions of France, and this may explain their leading role over many centuries. Remarkably, for nearly 700 years the entire verdigris operation was controlled by women living in Montpellier. These women had a monopoly on the production and sale of verdigis throughout Europe; the recipe was a secret passed on from mother to daughter until World War I.

The women of Montpellier used copper from Sweden to synthesize the verdigris. First they rubbed copper strips with some verdigris (to form seed crystals), and covered them with fermented grape husks. After several days, crystals would form on the copper plates and the plates would be transferred to dark sheds. They further corroded the copper by dripping stale wine extract onto it, forming large spongy verdigris crystals on the surface. The verdigris was scraped off, dissolved in vinegar and recrystallized on wooden sticks. The verdigris was then scraped off the sticks, crushed, and sold.

As was already mentioned, verdigris was mainly used as a pigment. The Greeks and Romans used it for paintings. The Dutch masters mixed verdigris with oil to form green and blue pigments for landscapes and drapery. Unfortunately, verdigris is not a very lasting pigment; it easily blackens under influence of moisture, alkalis, and interactions with other pigments such as lead and orpiment.

Verdigris was also used to preserve woods, tint papers, and illuminate stamps. The compound also had some medical applications; disinfecting wounds, treating tinea, and to treat inflamed eyes and cataracts.


Chemical & Engineering News, American Chemical Society, January 7, 2002
Magic: The Gathering card. Information from Magic: The Database

Card Title: Verdigris
Card Type: Instant
Color: Green
Edition(s): Tempest
Artist(s): Zina Saunders
Casting Cost: 2G
Rarity: Uncommon

Card Text: Destroy target artifact.


  • Info: Color=Green Type=Instant Cost=2G TE(U1) Text(TE): Destroy target artifact.
Card Rulings dated March 23, 2000
Reality, Crumble, Creeping Mold, Splinter, and Verdigris are the only mono-green cards that will remove a single artifact. Verdigris is probably the best, as it works at instant speed, it is reasonably inexpensive, and it has no drawbacks (Crumble gives life to the controller of the destroyed artifact). There really isn't much more to say, as this is a very simple card.

Ver"di*gris (?), n. [F. vert-de-gris, apparently from verd, vert, green + de of + gris gray, but really a corruption of LL. viride aeris (equivalent to L. aerugo), from L. viridis green + aes, aeris, brass. See Verdant, and 2d Ore.]

1. Chem.

A green poisonous substance used as a pigment and drug, obtained by the action of acetic acid on copper, and consisting essentially of a complex mixture of several basic copper acetates.


The green rust formed on copper.


⇒ This rust is a carbonate of copper, and should not be confounded with true verdigris.

U. S. Disp.

Blue verdigris Chem., a verdigris having a blue color, used a pigment, etc. -- Distilled verdigris Old Chem., an acid copper acetate; -- so called because the acetic acid used in making it was obtained from distilled vinegar. -- Verdigris green, clear bluish green, the color of verdigris.


© Webster 1913.

Ver"di*gris, v. t.

To cover, or coat, with verdigris.

[R.] "An old verdigrised brass bugle."



© Webster 1913.

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