Thursday, February 7, 2008


2/6. Mango, oil on linen panel, 5x5 in. SOLD

According to the Golden Artist Colors website,

The story of Indian Yellow pigment seems more like myth than fact. In the Bengali province of India, farmers raised herds of cattle fed only on mango leaves and water. The urine from these cows – bright yellow in color – was collected and dried to produce the pigment for Indian Yellow. Unfortunately, the cows were extremely undernourished, as mango leaves did not supply the cattle with sufficient nutrients, and they lived for only a very short time. The process was considered inhumane and, since 1908, Indian Yellow pigment has been prohibited from the market.
Wikipedia says, "In Girl with a Pearl Earring, Vermeer's patron remarks that Vermeer used 'cow piss' to paint his wife." Actually, if true, the practice described above would have been inadvisable to begin with, as mango leaves are toxic and cattle in India are sacred. Also from Wikipedia,
In her 2004 book Color: A Natural History of the Palette, Victoria Finlay examined whether Indian yellow was really made from cow urine. The only printed source mentioning this practice is a single letter written by a Mr. T.N. Mukharji of Calcutta, who claimed to have seen the color being made. Aside from this letter, there appear to be no written sources from the time period mentioning the production of Indian yellow. Finlay searched for legal records concerning the supposed banning of Indian yellow production in both the India Library in London and the National Library in Calcutta, and found none. She visited the town in India mentioned in Mukharji's letter as the only source of the color, but found no trace of evidence that the color had ever been produced there. None of the locals she spoke with had ever heard of the practice. It is possible that Indian yellow came from another source, and that the cow urine story was fabricated by Mukharji, but came to be accepted by later authors. As such, the viability of producing Indian yellow from the urine of mango-leaf-fed cows is unknown.

1 comment:

Dar Presto said...

this is a beautiful painting. I enjoy your work very much. I think this piece has that play between opaque and transparent for which you strive.

The blog is fantastic. I don't think I've gone back far enough to see if you've translated Beowulf, Icelandic sagas or Klingon opera.