Gamboge: Ukiyo-e colorant

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Gamboge 藤黄 (tōō): A yellow-orange gum-resin produced by several species of Garcinia tree found in India, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Ceylon. Gamboge was used as a yellow pigment as early as the 8th century in Asia and Japan. Gamboge is composed of a yellow resinous component (70–80%; morelloflavone) and a clear water-soluble Gum (20%). Gamboge is obtained scoring the trunks of trees of at least ten years of age in order to let the poisonous milky yellow resin drip into hollow bamboo canes. Once the resin has congealed, the bamboo is roasted over fire to evaporate remaining moisture. Then the bamboo is broken away to reveal rods of raw gamboge, which are then pulverized. Once pulverized, the color of gamboge is transformed from a dull to bright yellow.

Gamboge produces a transparent yellow which was frequently hand-painted on prints dating from the 1690's to the 1740's. After the introduction of full color printing, its use seems to decline perhaps because other yellows were easier to obtain and/or print and mix with other colorants.

For more information see: Gamboge

Examples of Gamboge in Ukiyo-e Prints


Pt 1: hand applied
Torii Kiyomasu II, 58.343


11.13297 EEM Pt1 Mar 5 2014.jpg
Pt 1: hand applied
Torii Kiyomasu II, 11.13297


11.13344 EEM Pt2 Mar 5 2014.jpg
Pt 2: hand applied
Okumura Masanobu, 11.13344


Pt 2: printed
Komatsuken, 11.19711


Pt 1: printed
Suzuki Harunobu, 11.19475


Gamboge does not fluoresce under UVA radiation and therefore does not produce a distinct pattern using Excitation Emission Matrix (EEM) spectroscopy. This, in itself is unique because of the possible yellow colorants analyzed, it is the only bright yellow colorant that not only does not fluoresce but also absorbs the fluorescence emitted by the paper. This negative indication can be sometimes used to assign the presence of gamboge.

Images of Gamboge

List of Prints

Below is a list of prints where gamboge was detected.

Pages in category "Gamboge: Ukiyo-e colorant"

The following 22 pages are in this category, out of 22 total.