Vermilion: Ukiyo-e colorant

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Goat Standing by a Plum Tree by Totoya Hokkei

Vermilion 朱 (shu): A bright red pigment composed of synthetically prepared red mercuric sulfide. Vermilion is chemically identical to the mineral Cinnabar (辰砂 shinsha).

Vermilion appears to have been rarely used as a colorant for woodblock printing. In the mid-1800's it seems to have been mixed with madder to create a somewhat brighter color with an orange cast mostly seen used on cartouches. Although not part of the printing matrix, vermilion is commonly found in seals on some surimono (摺物) prints. Vermilion is the commonly used red ink for seals.

For more information see: Vermilion

Examples of Vermilion in Ukiyo-e Prints

21.9277-pt2-detail.png

219277-Pt2-XRF.jpg
Pt 2: printed
Totoya Hokkei, 21.9277

11.16773-pt7-detail.png

1116773-Pt7-XRF.jpg
Pt 7: seal
Katsushika Hokusai, 11.16773

11.13343-pt1-detail.png

1113343-Pt1&2-XRF.jpg
Pt 1: vermilion + red lead, hand applied
Okumura Masanobu, 11.13343

11.25617-pt7-detail.png

1125617-Pt7&8-XRF.jpg
Pt 7: vermilion + madder, printed
Keisai Eisen, 11.25617

11.28766-pt5-detail.png

1128766-Pt5-XRF.jpg
Pt 5: vermilion + madder, printed
Utagawa Kuniyoshi, 11.28766

Analysis

X-ray fluorescence analysis (XRF) is used to detect mercury, which is an indication for the presence of vermilion (HgS).

Images of Vermilion

List of Prints

Below is a list of prints where vermilion was detected.