Re: Fugitive and Other Colors

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Posted by John Fiorillo on January 23, 2003 at 19:56:55:

In Reply to: Fugitive and Other Colors posted by Guy on January 23, 2003 at 03:39:57:


Have you seen my discussion of fading tests?


It is my experience that the blue pigments mentioned there (especially 'aigami', but also 'ai') are probably the most fugitive among typically encountered pigments of the late 18th century and very early 19th centuries. Purple colors (a combination at that time of one of the blues and the red called 'beni') were also very fugitive.

The "shockingly bright" red colors you cite as being alongside other colors that are faded appear suspicious in regard to c. 1800 prints (I'm saying this only in general terms and cannot really know without examining the print). First of all, no print-making colorants used at that time produced "shockingly bright" colors. Second, the standard red was 'beni' (another less common red seems to have been 'suo', Caesalpinia sappan, or "Brazil-wood), and 'beni' faded relatively quickly (almost as fast as 'aigami'; see the discussion mentioned at the link above).

Colorants added later to otherwise genuine prints may have variable appearance. Typically, the hue is different from the characteristic colors of c. 1800 prints, often more opaque, but not always. The early blues ('aigami' and 'ai') were translucent and delicate, although there is another light blue colorant (not the later, darker 'bero-ai' or "Prussian" blue so familiar in the prints of Hokusai or Hiroshige) that provided more uniform coverage and appeared to be more colorfast (it is found in some prints by Sharaku and Toyokuni, for example, and may have been the same light blue used later by many artists of the Utagawa school). "Flatness" may be the result not only of a more modern colorant (although modern pigments can be garishly bright as well), but also of the modern paper (different quality of absorption, different sizing, less time for the colors to alter like the originals, etc.).


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