Yellow, a Colour of Spring by Zahra Hassan

All Types of Yellow Colour Pigments used by artists for centuries

A Story of a Musician, illustration by Zahra (Fatima Zahra Hassan) from Kingdom of Joy – Stories of Rumi
A student’s work, School of Miniature Painting, Image by @FZH
Yellow Ochre Powder – Earth Pigment (image:Wikipedia)

Yellow Ochre – (In Urdu and Farsi it is known as Zard, the Hindi name is Ramraj) – an iron oxide, it is usually found in the form of a coloured earth and is washed and finely ground and mixed with a binding medium.

Indian yellow, historical dye collection of the Technical University of Dresden, Germany

Indian Yellow – (Indian name is Peuri or Gagoli) – it is said that this colour is made from the urine of cows fed on mangoes or mango leaves to produced a very bright and vivid yellow colour. Recent test have proved that this is only a tale of folklore. However due to this take it was not used in Islamic manuscripts dealing with sacred themes. Other references indicate that is a yellow earth found in India. This pigment is not commonly used due to its obscure source.

Bright golden-yellow streak colour of orpiment

Orpiment – A brilliant yellow made from sulphide of arsennic which is dangerous to use. This stone is ground, washed and mixed with grum arabic.

Saffron Flower

Saffron Yellow – The most common yellow colour used in the Indian subcontinent. The saffron is boiled or soaked in water to give the liquid colour. The period of soaking the saffron depends on the intensity of the colour required. This solution does not need to be mixed with Gum Arabic or other binding medium .This solution is translucent; however, if mixed with a white colour becomes opaque but loses its original intensity.

Turmeric Roots and Powder

Turmeric Yellow – This yellow is obtained by boiling the turmeric in water until it gives it the required colour, it is then filtered and some saffron is added and boiled again. This is filtered again and gall nut and Gum Arabic is added to the mixture before it cools down.

Text by Fatima Zahra Hassan

Extract from her PhD thesis, 1997, copyright @fzhassan & @fzhatelier

Pigment of the Month: Indian Yellow


This month at The Conservation Center, we were inspired by the marvellous hues of autumn, as our hometown of Chicago is being swiftly engulfed by red, orange, and yellow leaves. So we decided to revive our Pigment of the Month segment. For the month of October, we chose a beautiful and historically fascinating yellow pigment- perfect for fall- with a very interesting story behind it.

Indian Yellow is a vivid orange-yellow pigment that originates from India in the 15th century and was mostly used there during the Mughal period. It was introduced to European artists shortly thereafter, where it was used until it became commercially unavailable in the early 20th century. This pigment was a popular choice among frescoists, oil painters, and watercolorists, although it was said to have an unpleasant odour.

This odor may stem from the alleged original source of the pigment— cow urine. Story goes that the cattle responsible for Indian Yellow were only fed water and mango leaves, ingredients that supposedly made their urine (and thereby the pigment) especially luminescent.


In search of illumination: the shared passion of Elaine and Alexandre Rosenberg – The couple’s collection of manuscripts and early printed books, offered on 23 April, is one of the finest ever to come to market, from Christie’s online magazine

The couple’s collection of manuscripts and early printed books, offered on 23 April, is one of the finest ever to come to market

Over the course of 30 years, Elaine and Alexandre Rosenberg assembled one of the finest collections of illuminated manuscripts and early printed books in the world. Eager academics and scholars could regularly be found in the library of the couple’s Upper East Side townhouse.

The Rosenbergs collected with great passion. According to their daughters, Elisabeth Clark and Marianne Rosenberg, they ‘perhaps even found a soulmate’ in their books.

The couple continued collecting until Alexandre’s death in 1987. Although she never added to it, Elaine took great care in preserving the collection until her own passing, aged 98, in 2020.

On 23 April, 17 illuminated manuscripts and more than 200 of the Rosenbergs’ incunabula (printed books from before 1501) are being offered in a single-owner sale at Christie’s in New York.

‘This is one of the most important collections of its kind ever to come to market,’ says Eugenio Donadoni, Christie’s senior specialist in Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. ‘We’re proud to honour Elaine and Alexandre Rosenberg’s collecting and philanthropic legacy with this auction.’