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AlphabeThursday I is for Indian Yellow

January 16, 2014
Krishna, wearing a yellow dhoti; playing the flute to his girlfriend Radha.

Krishna, wearing a yellow dhoti; playing the flute to his girlfriend Radha.

Bright yellow pigments over the centuries have been prized by artists because they are vital in depicting gold and effects of sunlight. While mostly it came from tin some had a different and even more lowly beginnings. 

Indian yellow was imported by Dutch traders and used in the paintings of 17th century.  The pigment known in India since the 15th century as purree, puri or peori may have come originally from Persia.  

The pigment arrived formed in hard, dirty, foul smelling balls.  Some artists thought it was made using urine although others were reluctant believe them.  Later it was suggested that the ingredients used may be that of camel urine.  However was not until the late 19th century speculation were corrected.  

It seems the yellow balls were produced certain milkmen who feed their cattle exclusively on mango leaves. The urine was heated until it thickened, formed into balls and dried.  Despite is unpleasant production and appearance the ground pigment was very lovely giving a deep golden yellow.  

However; it was also discovered cow-men fearing for their livelihood did not feed the cows any ‘nutrition’ so  that the cows were in very poor health.  The farmer’s practices were denounced as inhumane and laws passed to prohibit them.  So Indian yellow soon became illegal and disappeared by 1908 and was soon replaced by chromium yellow.  

alphabet thursday

18 Comments leave one →
  1. January 16, 2014 9:52 am

    Well you learn something everyday – Camel urine yellow ummm… Chromium yellow does sound much nicer!
    Interesting post – thank you

  2. January 16, 2014 1:13 pm

    Very interesting bit of history! Fascinating, actually!

  3. January 16, 2014 3:18 pm

    That’s certainly an interesting little tidbit!

  4. January 16, 2014 8:44 pm

    Very interesting! I learned something new today, for sure! I’m sure it didn’t smell too good!

  5. January 17, 2014 12:38 am

    Almost feels like a racist color when its called ‘Indian Yellow’. But I love its tone, its like gold.

    • January 17, 2014 7:16 am

      Oh yes, I know what you mean especially as it had such distinct qualities and its sophisticated glow!

  6. January 17, 2014 3:11 am

    well, everyone was right about the urine. It must smell! Such a great way to brighten an image! {:-Deb

    • January 17, 2014 7:18 am

      Oh yes nothing more grounding! We all have smelly urine; even the most grand! 🙂

  7. January 17, 2014 11:43 pm

    Very interesting and factual post. Thanks for the lovely share.


  8. January 20, 2014 4:27 am

    Always something new to learn! I am always happy to come by and find these interesting facts! LOvely mage too. Thanks for sharing.

  9. February 3, 2014 5:02 am

    This is extremely interesting… It is kind of icky to think of using urine for a pigment, but it is also a very innovative idea!

    Thanks for linking to the letter “I”.


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