Mica: Ukiyo-e colorant
Mica 雲母 (kira or unmo): A group of silicate minerals that cleave into thin, flexible sheets. It is ground into a powder for use on prints. Powdered mica can be printed or sprinkled to create a shimmering effect. Starch paste or animal glue (膠 nikawa) is often used to affix the mica to the surface of the paper. It is a pearlescent white but can also be mixed with a colorant to make colored mica. Mica can appear in a variety of tones depending on its origin, preparation or if it is applied over a printed color. Pink, mica and a red colorant or dark gray, mica and carbon black are the most common tones.
Mica appears most frequently on prints made during the late 18th century that depicted actors and beautiful women where it was used on the background to highlight the figure. It can get easily abraded and also absorb moisture causing discoloration or dissolution.
For more information see: Mica
Examples of Mica in Ukiyo-e Prints
The presence of mica is best identified visually and with the aid of an optical microscope, via the observation of sparkly particles on the print. When present, mica can often be verified with X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF). However, the major elements in mica (silicon and aluminum) have low atomic weights and thus produce proportionately small peaks because they occur in a region where the detector has low sensitivity. Trace amounts of additional elements (such as potassium, iron, manganese, titanium, chromium, barium, arsenic) can be present in the mica structure, or from companion minerals. Thus it is important not to attribute these elements as evidence of other colorants.
Images of Mica
List of Prints
Below is a list of prints where mica was detected.
Pages in category "Mica: Ukiyo-e colorant"
The following 4 pages are in this category, out of 4 total.
- Eishi, Utamaki of the Takeya, kamuro Futaba and Midori, from the series New Year Fashions as Fresh as Young Leaves, 34.336
- Sharaku, Actors Ichikawa Komazô III as Kameya Chûbei and Nakayama Tomisaburô I as Umegawa, 11.16483
- Sharaku, Actors Ichikawa Komazô III as Kameya Chûbei and Nakayama Tomisaburô I as Umegawa, 21.7236