Indian Yellow (Pigment and Legend)

  • Indian yellow is bright, and pops off the page because it fluoresces, much like DaGlo colors.
  • The raw product was imported from India and China since the 1500's. 
  • It is a transparent colorant, and provided highlights in Dutch paintings and bright borders to miniature manuscripts.
  • Curiously, Indian yellow slows drying time for oil paintings.



  • Euxanthone (yellow structure) gives the color.
    • This is a fluorone (or xanthone) class dye - a dye commonly found in food.
      • Mangiferin is the bright fluorescent orange-yellow color of mango fruit. It is a C-linked glucoside, and so is not digested enzymatically. 
      • Erythrosine is FDA red dye #3, and was also used early in photography to make film respond to long wavelengths of light - i.e. the reds.
    • Fluorones are also a fabulously useful group of dyes in medicine and in biomedical research.
      • Mercurichrome has long been used as an antibacterial topical treatment.
      • Eosin is a histological stain for positively charged molecules, such as proteins in the cytoplasm and histamine in white blood cells.
      • Fluorescein and Rose bengal stain corneal abrasions and are in common ophthalmological use today.
      • Fluo-3, Fluo-4, SNARF and CFDA-SE measure pH, calcium and viability of individual cells.
    • Anthraquinone dyes have a similar 3-ring structure, but have a carbon where fluorone dyes have the (top center) oxygen.
      • Carminic acid is the red of cochineal.
      • Alizarin is the red of madder. 
  • Glucuronic acid (blue structure) is the sugar conjugated to euxanthone. 
    • These conjugated sugars increase the water solubility of these classes of dye molecules. 
    • Plants add sugars to allow them to temporarily store signalling molecules in an inactive form - for use later as needed.
    • Animals conjugate a wide variety of molecules to aid in their disposal by the kidney.



  • Feller, Robert L., ed. (1986) Artists Pigments : a Handbook of their History and Characteristics, Vol. 1, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
  • Finlay, Victoria (2003). Color: A Natural History of the Palette. Random House. ISBN 0812971426. (Kindle Edition $9.35)
  • Myers, David. (2011) The Art Blog of David Myers: Indian Yellow.
  • Stenhouse, John (November 1844). Examination of a yellow substance from India called Purree, from which the pigment called Indian Yellow is manufactured, The London, Edinburgh and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science: 321–325. 
  • Wikipedia.
  •, (2005) Species Profiles for Pacific Island Agroforestry 
  • Church, Arthur Herbert (1901 ) The Chemistry of Paints and Painting, Published by Seeley (see my Free Art Books Page) 
  • Eastaugh, Nicholas (2004). Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments. Butterworth-Heinemann. ISBN 0750657499. 
  • Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances, 2006,Vol.5, Iss.10,Pgs 800-804, Feeding Value of Mango Leaf (Mangifera indica) for Growing Rabbits *
  •, 2011, Uses of Mango Leaves,Seeds and Bark' 
  • Merimee, M.J.F.L. (8/5/2009). The Art of Painting in Oil and Fresco. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 9781437141160.
  • Stenhouse (Kindle Edition 99 cents), also see my Free Art Books Page *
  • Watts, Leopold Gmelin, Henry, 1866 Hand-book of chemistry, Volume 17 pg.530 
  • Weber, F.W. Artists' Pigments: Their Chemical and Physical Properties. New York: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1923.

These blogs were inspired by a 2017 show at the Indianapolis Museum of Art called CSI: Chemistry of Color.