Paint it Brown – The Strange History of Mummy Paint

You’ve seen those Hollywood creature features. You’ve hung out with Jenna as she compared Brendan Fraser & Tom Cruise in their respective Mummy movies. But that doesn’t mean there still aren’t secrets about mummies just waiting to be unearthed.

I’ll be the first to admit – I am OBSESSED with Ancient Egypt. I’m not even sure when it started. I mean, I hated history class in high school. But now, gimme a documentary on the History Channel about the latest discovery from Zahi Hawass and I’m there!

Photo © Zahi Hawass

So, a few years ago, I set out to write a mummy story. It gave me an excuse to do a little more digging into the discoveries, fact and fiction surrounding Ancient Egypt. Plus, it allowed me to geek out about my favorite subject matter (other than cats and coffee). That’s when I learned about mummy paint.

All About Mummy Brown

If you haven’t heard about this, it isn’t exactly for the faint of heart. Mummy Brown paint is exactly that – paint made from, among other things, ground up mummies.

Yup. You heard me right. I’m not sure who came up with the idea – or why – but apparently, mummies were ground up and the residue was mixed with white pitch (a wood resin) and myrrh (a fragrant resin/spice). The resulting concoction was known as caput mortuum, or mummy brown. The shade is described as something between burnt umber and raw umber.

Pre-Raphaelite painters were big fans of the hue. It has been said that French artist Martin Dröllin used the shade in his painting ‘L’interieur d’une cuisine’.

Diving Deeper in The Mummy Congress

In The Mummy Congress by Heather Pringle, more details about the trade in mummies are revealed. The peculiar existence of so-called ‘mummy merchants’ becomes even more strange when described as follows, ‘the mumia which is met in trade is mostly only an imitation, consisting of resinous red-brown or brown-black pieces, mixed with some brown bone remnants and little pieces of linen. The mummia is stocked in pieces and powder. If one should obtain and give true mumia, don’t forget to test for arsenic content, especially arsenic suphfide.’ Soon after, chemists began clearing their shelves of their mummy jars. No one wanted to be associated any longer with a trade in dead bodies.”

The good news is, mummy brown paint soon became unfashionable when the general public learned of its contents. After all, what artist would feel comfortable creating, or what art collector would feel comfortable obtaining a piece they knew was borne from paint containing ground up bone from a mummy?

Sure, we know even the Victorians had an obsession with macabre art, but perhaps artwork with mummy paint as the medium was going one step too far.

Having said that, I couldn’t help but use this strange tidbit of information as the inspiration for a story. I am a horror author, after all.

Explore The Lockwood Collection

So, are you brave enough to read such a tale? If you are, then you’re in luck! You can grab your own copy of the story inspired by this bizarre factoid!

My short story, The Lockwood Collection, was published in an all-mummy anthology called Scroll of Anubis from Library of Horror Publishing. I’ve made the story available as an ebook and now it can be yours!


About The Lockwood Collection


After struggling artist Regan Lockwood receives a mysterious gift from her father, her work begins to take on a horrifying tone. Terrified of this darker side and her unraveling sanity, Regan is forced to confront her father and in doing so, unearths a decades-old secret from her family’s past

As a special treat to fans of The Midnight Society, you can download an ebook copy from my website!

Head over to The Lockwood Collection page, add the ebook to your cart, and checkout using coupon code MidnightMummy to grab your copy!

Don’t forget to leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads when you’re done!






  • Jenna
    July 16, 2017

    Awesome post – I’m going to check out your story!! <3

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