Bianco di San Giovanni Pigment

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Bianco di San Giovanni is lime white pigment first described in literature by Cennino Cennini. D. V. Thompson says the name comes from the patron saint of Florence.

Bianco di San Giovanni is a lime white pigment first described in the literature by Cennino Cennini. D. V. Thompson says the name comes from the patron saint of Florence.

Pigment Names
Synonyms:Lime white, Armenini’s white, Cennini’s white, Saint John’s white
Common NamePrimary MineralSource
Bianco di San GiovanniPortlanditeUnited States


Pigment Information
Pigment Classification:Synthetic Inorganic
Colour Index:Not Listed
Chemical Name:Calcium Hydroxide, Calcium Carbonate
Chemical Formula:Ca(OH)2, CaCO3
CAS No.:1305-62-0 (Calcium Hydroxide)
ASTM Lightfastness
Acrylic:Not Listed
Oil:Not Listed
Watercolor:Not Listed
Physical Properties
Oil Absorption:
Particle Size (Average):
Density (at 20° C.):2.211 g/cm3
Bulk Density:
Refractive Index:1.574
Solubility:0.173 g/100 ml (20 °C)
Health and SafetyWARNING! Contains Calcium Hydroxide. Harmful if swallowed. It may cause burns. Avoid swallowing, contact with skin and eyes, and inhalation of dust. Keep out of reach of children. Conforms to ASTM D-4236.


For a detailed explanation of the terms in the table above, please visit Composition and Permanence.

Origin and History

Cennino Cennini uses the name "Bianco di San Giovanni" to describe the preparation of a white lime pigment in his book Il Libro dell’Arte. He does not explain the name used for this lime white, and it is probable; therefore, this crucial white pigment was in use by artists before Cennini’s time. D. V. Thompson says it gets its name from the patron saint of Florence.


Bianco di San Giovanni is a pigment of inorganic, natural mineral origin from limestone (calcium carbonate) deposits. Not to be confused with simple lime white or chalk, Bianco di San Giovanni, as Cennino Cennini reports, is dried lime which is reduced to powder and then immersed in the water for eight days that is changed each day. It is then made into small cakes and left to dry in the sun. It is then grounded finely.

Bianco di San Giovanni primarily consists of calcium hydroxide, also known as slaked lime, in a chemical compound with calcium carbonate. A traditional name for calcium hydroxide alone is slaked lime or hydrated lime. The name of the natural mineral is portlandite. A water suspension of fine calcium hydroxide particles is called “milk of lime.” When dissolved in water, the solution is called “lime water.” Bianco di San Giovanni is composed of slaked lime, and because it is dried in the sun, it absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and partially converts to calcium carbonate or lime.

Permanence and Compatibility

Bianco di San Giovanni is the white pigment par excellence for fresco painting. It is also used in tempera and grounds, while it is not advised in oil and encaustic painting techniques.

Oil Absorption and Grinding

Our lime white is coarsely ground. Lime white should be finely ground before use in fresco and casein tempera painting techniques.


Bianco di San Giovanni is not toxic; it is alkaline and may irritate the skin and eyes. Care should be used in handling the dry powder pigment to avoid inhaling the dust.

For more information on handling pigments safely, please visit How to Safely Handle Art Materials and Pigments.

More Information
BrandRublev Colours
VendorRublev Colours
Processing TimeUsually ships the next business day.
Pigment TypeInorganic, Historical, Synthetic
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Bianco di San Giovanni Pigment
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