Brass: Ukiyo-e colorant

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Actors Matsushima Hyôtarô... by Okumura Toshinobu

Brass 真鍮 (shinchū): An alloy of Copper and Zinc. Flakes or powdered metallics are often found in deluxe editions and privately comissioned surimono (摺物) prints. Animal glue (膠 nikawa) was commonly used to adhere the flakes to the paper's surface or as a binder when printed. The use of affordable metals such as brass and tin were likely meant to imitate the glittering effects created by the use of expensive metal leaf or flakes such as gold and silver on screen and scroll paintings.

Brass flakes are found in early prints as well as in deluxe editions and surimono prints. It was also used for metallic gold colored areas on a print. Printed brass is often seen in surimonos. Different tones of brass could be created by manipulating the proportion of copper and zinc.

For more information see: Brass

Examples of Brass in Ukiyo-e Prints


Pt 4: hand applied
Torii Kiyomasu II, 58.343


Pt 2: hand applied
Okumura Toshinobu, 11.13225


Pt 6: hand applied
Okumura Masanobu, 11.13344


1120034 Pt 3 XRF.jpg
Pt 3: printed
Ryūryūkyo Shinsai, 11.20034


1125669 Pt 6 XRF.jpg
Pt 6: printed
Keisai Eisen, 11.25669


001949 Pt5 XRF.jpg
Pt 5: printed
Katsushika Hokusai, 00.1949


X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF) is used to detect copper (Cu) and zinc (Zn), which is an indication for the presence of brass.

Images of Brass

List of Prints

Below is a list of prints where brass was detected.