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Pigments in Jain manuscript art

The 17th and 18th centuries

Dating from roughly 1630, this folio (IS.2-1984) makes great use of a reddish orange shade as well as green, purples and blues. This contrasts with earlier Jain manuscripts, which tend to display more restricted colour palettes.

Wide 17th-century colour palette
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

In the manuscripts made between the beginning of the 17th and the end of the 18th century, or even the beginning of the 19th century, a wider range of hues is used. This is probably due to the influence of the Mughal court style on Jain art.

The folios exhibit a wide variety of colours obtained by mixing various materials, for example a:

  • natural carnation – used for the pink skin tone – is painted with a mixture of red lead and a white material
  • dull green is obtained by mixing indigo and orpiment
  • a purple shade results from mixing lead white and vermilion
  • a brown hue is produced from a mix of indigo and red lead.

While gold was used on the older manuscripts, the later pages contain powdered metallic tin, which imitates silver.

Comparison with Hindu manuscripts

This Hindu folio (IS.81.1963) from the late 15th century shows differences from typical Jain manuscript paintings of the same period. In contrast to Jain manuscripts, lapis lazuli is not used at all and the colours seem generally less powerful.

Hindu folio
Image by Victoria and Albert Museum © V&A Images/Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Although only one Hindu folio was analysed, a few preliminary observations and comparisons with the Jain folios can be made.

In the painting the pigment lapis lazuli is not used, unlike the Jain manuscripts where it is widespread.

The pigments used to paint the Hindu illumination appear to be less concentrated and have a lower covering power compared with the Jain folios analysed.

More Hindu pages will be examined in the near future and a more conclusive comparison will then be completed.

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