yellows

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 What is it? Ochres are natural clay earth pigments and one of the first pigments used by humans. Yellow ochre (FeO(OH).nH2O) is a hydrated iron hydroxide (limonite).

How is the pigment made? Grind the extracted clay into a fine powder and wash the impurities out.

Was it used in English manuscripts? Yes. It was easily available in medieval period.

Is is safe? Yes. But always take care to wash hands after touching and avoid inhaling raw pigment.

 

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Yellow Ochre 
Orpiment

 What is it? Naturally occurring yellow mineral called arsenic sulphide (As2S3). Found around hot springs and volcanic fumaroles. Can also be made artificially. It was used by the Egyptians (16–11th century BCE) and continued to be popular throughout the medieval period.

How is the pigment made? The granular deposits are extracted and ground down, sometimes with glass. To manufacture orpiment, mix sulphur and arsenic either by heat or precipitation.

Was it used in English manuscripts?  Yes, it is found in many English manuscripts (see, e.g., the Lindisfarne Gospels)although it would have been imported. 

Is is safe? No. Cennini warns about its toxic properties (ch. 47) and it can discolour other pigments containing lead or copper.  Wear a mask, gloves, and eye goggles in a well-ventilated area if handling the pigment.

 

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Weld

 What is it? Plant native to Europe and Western Asia (reseda luteola). Rich in luteolin, a flavonoid which produces a bright yellow dye. Known from classical times.

How is the pigment made? Plant seeds in late summer ready to flower the following year. When the tiny yellow flowers appear in June, cut down the whole plant. Heat gently in rain water, add alum and calcium carbonate.

Was it used in English manuscripts?  Probably. It was used widely as a dye and produces a good yellow pigment.

Is is safe? Yes. But always take care to wash hands after touching and avoid inhaling raw pigment.

 

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Lead Tin Yellow

 What is it? Artificially made lead oxide and tin oxide (Pb2SnO4). It became a popular pigment in Europe in the thirteenth century.

How is it the pigment made? Heat lead and tin together to 900 °C.

Was it used in English manuscripts? Yes, but so far has only been identified in England in late medieval manuscripts e.g. the Abingdon Missal

Is is safe? No. Wear a mask, gloves, and eye goggles in a well-ventilated area if handling the pigment.

 

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Mosaic Gold

 What is it? An artificially made mixture of mercury, tin, sulphur and sal ammoniac (SnS2). It was used from the thirteenth century.

How is the pigment made? Take equal parts of tin, sulphur and sal ammoniac, but less of mercury, and heat all the ingredients together.

Was it used in English manuscripts? Not widely used. So far it has only been identified in England in late medieval manuscripts e.g. the yellow foliage in Oxford, Trinity College, MS 75, fol. 199r.

Is is safe? No. Cennini also warns about the damage it can do to gold leaf. Wear a mask, gloves, and eye goggles in a well-ventilated area if handling the pigment.

 

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