Pigments are substances used to produce colours in art and are normally powders that are mixed with a binding medium, such as water or oil, to create paints the artist can use. Jain manuscripts of certain texts are noted for their heavy use of colourful illustrations, because the items themselves are considered precious and are sometimes even treated as sacred objects worthy of worship. Pigments are also often used in manuscript text, for example to mark verse divisions, for emphasis or punctuation.
Before the advent of artificial colouring agents, many traditional pigments were derived from animal or insect products. A well-known example is carmine, a bright red material made from boiled cochineal beetles. The Jain doctrine of non-violence means that, in principle, only pigments produced from plants or minerals should be used in Jain art. Jain manuscripts also frequently use precious materials in their miniature paintings, such as gold or lapis lazuli.
The V&A team used several scientific methods to examine a selection of folios from Jain and Hindu manuscripts. As well as spectroscopic techniques of different kinds, these methods included optical microscopes to reveal information that the naked eye cannot see. The project discovered that the pigments used remained largely traditional, although the artistic styles developed. Even so, later on some colours were obtained using more modern pigments. The comparison with Hindu manuscripts also brought to light some differences.
Twenty-one folios from a number of Jain and Hindu manuscripts in the Victoria & Albert Museum collections were analysed using non-destructive scientific techniques. The aim was to find out:
Using a Raman microscope
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The procedures used to reach these goals ranged from standard microscopy to ultraviolet imaging. Certain characteristics of the manuscripts are invisible to the human eye but modern analysis techniques can discover what lies hidden in the material of an artefact. These can point to the item's provenance, age and other information that may be very difficult to find out without complete documentary records.
The V&A team which undertook the analysis of these manuscripts included Bhavesh Shah, who led the XRF analysis, Lucia Burgio, senior scientist, and the curator Nick Barnard. The Raman and optical microscopy analyses were carried out by Silvia Amato, a visiting scientist on a post-graduate traineeship.
A principle or system of teachings, especially religious philosophy.
A donor gives freely. He or she may give alms to a mendicant or money to an institution. This donation may be for specific items or purposes, such as the creation of art. A donor, sponsor or patron may be named or pictured in the artwork.
A single sheet of paper or parchment with a front and a back side. Manuscripts and books are written or printed on both sides of sheets of paper. A manuscript page is one side of a sheet of paper, parchment or other material. The recto page is the top side of a sheet of paper and the verso is the underside.
Follower of the majority faith in India and an adjective describing something belonging to Hinduism. Hindus have numerous gods and diverse beliefs and practices, though many believe in the soul, karma, the cycle of births and liberation. Roughly a billion Hindus comprise the third largest religion in the world.
Term for cultural patterns and practices that are common in Muslim societies but are not overtly religious in nature. In contrast, the adjective 'Islamic' often refers to things directly connected with the religion of Islam.
Follower of the 24 Jinas or an adjective describing Jain teachings or practices. The term 'Jaina' is also used although 'Jain' is more common.
The Mughal Empire lasted from 1526 to 1858, a period noted for its wealth, overall religious tolerance, and cultural and intellectual achievements, particularly in art and architecture. Originally Muslims who swept down from Central Asia, the Mughals' best-known ruler is probably Akbar the Great (1556–1605).
The range of colours, which may be characteristic of a particular painting, artist or school. It comes from the name of the thin board used to hold and mix different colours of paint.
The origin of something, especially its history of ownership. This is used in art and archaeology, in particular, to help establish the age and creator of an artwork or other artefact.
Sanskrit for 'worship' or 'homage'. All Jains perform rites of honour to the 24 Jinas. Rites of worship take place daily, with more elaborate ceremonies performed on holy days. Mendicant and lay Jains perform different rituals. Some sects worship images – mūrti-pūjaka – and others do not, and different sects have various practices. Focused on images or not, worship can be: