Week 5 – Learning About Lead-tin Yellow

Apr 17, 2020

Welcome back everyone! I hope you all had a good week.

This week I continued my research into the history of pigment use with the color lead-tin yellow.

There are actually two types of lead-tin yellow: lead-tin yellow type I ( Pb2SnO4 ) and lead-tin yellow type II ( Pb(Sn,Si)O3 ). The confusing thing is that lead-tin yellow type II was actually used before type I. The use of lead-tin type II began in the 14th century before gradually being replaced by type I in the early 15th century. The only exception was when the two pigments appeared together in some Veniatian paintings. The use of the pigment died out around 1850, at least until it was “rediscovered” in the 20th century with a through synthetic production. Thus, the pigment continues in use today.

I had pretty much the opposite experience of when I was looking for instances of Indian yellow. While I struggled to find proven examples for Indian yellow, lead-tin yellow was extremely popular in Europe from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century. I found a lot of entries and some fun sources. One of my favorites was finding a study of German paintings from a museum in Cologne — it was most interesting because the study was written in German! As some of you may know, I lived in Germany for a few years when I was younger and used to be fluent in German. I have since begun trying to relearn the language, but I don’t know enough to understand a scientific paper. With my limited skills, a bit of Google Translate, and a lot of help from my friend, I managed to get around twenty entries, possibly more if I can nail down their locations. 

With that done, next week I am free to move on to studying lead-antimony yellow — more commonly known as Naples yellow. I expect that one to be busy too. Until then!

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