Category:Safflower: Ukiyo-e colorant

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Actor Sawamura Tanosuke II by Utagawa Kunisada

Safflower 紅花(benibana): An organic red obtained from the florets of Carthamus tinctorius, it produces a range of tone from pink to red. The florets are picked, washed, massaged, and fermented to create safflower cakes (紅餅 beni mochi) from which the red dye can be extracted later. Dried florets can also be used to extract the dye which are first 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. Safflower was grown throughout Japan during the Edo period for use as cosmetics as well as food dyes. The area of Yamagata was known as a producer of high quality benibana and still produces it today.

Safflower can be a light pink, such as the delicate pink used to depict the subtle eye shadow or blush to a deeper red. Safflower was noted to be expensive and require multiple printing to achieve a darker color. Safflower and madder are the most commonly found red before the introduction of aniline dyes. Red safflower and madder are found as a single colorant or as a mixture of the two. Although a visual difference between a single colorant red safflower and red safflower/madder mixture is hard to discern currently, madder may have been mixed to extend the safflower. Safflower is also most commonly used with dayflower to produce purple. This combination of safflower and dayflower is continuously detected even after the introduction of synthetic colorants such as Prussian blue and aniline dyes, which seems to indicate that the tone obtained by the two was preferred over other possible mixtures of reds and blues.

For more information see: Safflower, Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius) LC

Examples of Safflower in Ukiyo-e Prints

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Actor Sawamura Tanosuke II... by Torii Kunisada

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Actor Ogino Izaburo I... by Torii Kiyomasu

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Rain in the Fifth Month by Ishikawa Toyonobu

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Nishikigi of the Kanaya... by Suzuki Harunobu

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Actors Ichikawa Danjûrô V... by Katsukawa Shunko

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Seijûrô and Onatsu... by Keisai Eisen

Analysis

Excitation Emission Matrix (EEM) spectroscopy can easily identify the organic reds: safflower, madder, and sappanwood. Safflower fluoresces under UVA radiation and produces a unique EEM plot, even when the safflower has visually faded to a dull brownish red. 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.



Other Images of Safflower

List of Prints

List of prints where safflower was detected