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Pigments in Jain manuscript art

Different palettes

These differences in the use of pigments may be due to various factors, such as:

  • change in the style of the miniatures
  • variation in the availability of raw materials
  • changes in the technology of pigment production.

Additional factors to be considered are the intentions and wealth of the sponsors of the manuscript. For example, these individuals may have specified certain expensive raw materials, resulting in very lavish manuscript art. Conversely, a plainer manuscript may have been produced when particular instructions were not given.

Changes over time

The Jain folios in the project can be divided into two groups. The first category includes manuscripts produced in the 15th and 16th centuries while the second is composed of those made in the 17th and 18th centuries and even later.

Some differences between the two classes are evident in both the range of colours and the artistic styles.

The 15th and 16th centuries

This folio (IM.8-1931), produced around 1460, is typical of the limited palette characteristic of Jain manuscripts of the 15th and 16th centuries. The colours are usually lapis lazuli blue, vermilion, gold and black.

Typical 15th-century colour palette
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The manuscripts from this period show a rather simple palette, in which gold, vermilion, carbon black and lapis lazuli are most commonly used. The use of green and white pigments is generally limited to small details on the folios.

The widespread use of precious materials, such as gold for the figures and text, and lapis lazuli for the background, is among stylistic innovations introduced in the mid-15th century. These arose partly as a result of contact between the Jain artistic tradition and the Islamicate cultures of Iran, Egypt and elsewhere.

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