Page:A history of Japanese colour-prints by Woldemar von Seidlitz.djvu/51

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general considerations


conception of the colours of the fine old prints.[1] Chief among the reds are a bluish red made from vegetable juice, called beni, a brick-red oxide of lead, called tan, which has a slight tendency to become black, and the Chinese cochineal red. The yellow is generally a light ochre; red ochre was introduced later. The blue is either carbonate of copper or indigo; the green was originally light, dark green came in later. Intermediate colours such as grey, cold brown, and olive green were added in the course of time. Black has played an important part from the earliest period down to modern times; at first somewhat greyish, it afterwards gained full intensity and lustre, and was much employed in broad masses. Flesh tints are indicated almost imperceptibly, if at all; but in some prints de luxe, especially at the end of the eighteenth century, they are brought out by sprinkling the white ground that relieves them with finely powdered mother-of-pearl, called mica, which produces a soft sheen.

There is also a special class of colour-print in which the second block is employed merely to produce a grey intermediate tint, a third block being often added for flesh tints. These two-block and three-block prints, which are very delicate in effect, are used chiefly in facsimile reproductions of drawings, e.g. of Hokusai. Wash sketches in broad brushwork and few colours, like those of Korin, Masayoshi, &c., are reproduced in the same way, sometimes with blue and red from a second and third block.[2]

The effect of colour-prints may also be heightened by dry or blind impressions, which are cut on yet another block and render the patterns of dresses or stuffs, the details of distant landscapes, wave lines on water, occasionally the folds of light-coloured robes. They are seldom absent on carefully executed

  1. Tokuno, p. 226 ff.; Anderson, Japanese Wood-Engraving, p. 67 ff.
  2. Brinckmann, p. 229.