"Pigment Red 254 was the first of the new pyrrole pigments to become available in artists colour ranges. These pigments were originally developed for automotive coatings and were destined for premium cars including the most expensive sports cars. There was a need for high permanence red colours as most red pigments available in earlier times tended to fade with prolonged exposure to the sun over many years. Unfortunately red tended to be the favorite colour for many sports cars such as Ferrari. In fact in the automotive coatings industry the informal name for PR254 is ??Ferrari Red??. Ferrari calls it ??Rosso Corso?? and there is an urban myth that they own the patent on the colour making it impossible for anyone else to get the same special red. In the period prior to 2002 all red Ferraris were painted using this pigment. Since then they have diversified and use various other shades of pyrrole pigments, but Rosso Corso remains a standard Ferrari red to this day. Despite the urban myth that Ferrari owns this colour it is also used by Alfa Romeo, BMW, Volkswagen, Corvette, and Lexus.
This gorgeous red was discovered by accident in a Michigan university laboratory in 1974 by Donald Farnum. He was working on something else and the red colour was to him just a failed experiment and so he published his findings and left it at that. It was Ciba-Geigy in Switzerland who developed the pigment and an industrial process for producing it. They patented it in 1983 and because it commands a premium price, it is one of the most profitable pigments the company has ever sold. Farnum, the original discoverer, has stated that he wishes he realized the potential for the colour he found in his failed experiment. Had he developed it further and patented it he could now be a very wealthy man.
Matisse Red Light is a pure and clean scarlet red. Because it is even more lightfast than Cadmium Red it can be used with confidence in all painting techniques. When colours are used in very thin washes as in a watercolour style technique, or in very pale tints mixed with white, or outdoors the colours are exposed to their greatest test since they are most likely to fade in these conditions. The pyrrole pigments including PR254 provide the artist with the greatest permanence of any bright red pigments and so can be used with confidence. They may cost a little more than some other reds but as with most things in life you get what you pay for. Like all scarlet light reds it is a valuable colour for the artist when mixing colours for painting skin, although it is also useful for general use as a clean bright red within a painting.