Safflower: Ukiyo-e colorant

From CAMEO
Revision as of 11:47, 16 October 2019 by MDerrick (talk | contribs)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

For ukiyo-e woodblock prints, Carthamus tinctorius (safflower) was the primary red and pink colorant used consistently for all of the time periods and printing methods.

Safflower - benibana The florets of Carthamus tinctorius (safflower) produce a wide range of colors from cherry red to pink. Native to northern India and the Near East, this popular dye plant was widely cultivated throughout Asia and Europe by the end of the 13th century. The florets are picked, then dried and crushed into a paste. The paste is washed with water to remove the non-lightfast yellow chromophors including several quinochalcones. The red colorant, primarily carthamin, is then extracted in an alkaline bath. The deepest reds are obtained through several initial washings to remove all of the water-soluble yellows.

Red regions containing safflower were usually seen as brightly fluorescent during the preliminary examination of the prints with a hand-held UV light. Thus, it was no surprise that the EEM fluorescence technique provided a unique and definitive pattern for safflower, even when it was visually observed in the print as a faded brown color. In addition to the fluorescence for the red chromophor, the pattern often contained an additional peak for the yellow chromophore that was supposedly removed in the preparation of the red colorant but often needed several washings for complete elimination.

The presence of this mixture throughout the history of color printing seems to indicate that the tone obtained by mixing dayflower blue and safflower was preferred over other possible mixtures of reds and blues to yield purple (for example indigo and madder).