Also known as antimony yellow, Naples yellow is a hue that dates back way into the 18th Dynasty (around 16th-14th century B.C.E.) in Thebes. During those times, it's the only yellow that was used before it was replaced by lead-tin yellow. It's also one of the oldest synthetic pigments, and its color can range from muted, earthy, reddish, to bright light yellow.
According to famous paint maker Winsor & Newton, Naples Yellow's origins remain unclear, but there are some sentiments over how it got its name:
“Its name probably comes from its presence as a natural deposit that could be found in the volcanic earth of Mount Vesuvius, a volcano on the bay of Naples. It can also be found under the name ‘jaune d’antimoine’ and was present in the palette of the Old Masters.”
The color was already in Babylon and Assyria as well.
Despite its toxic properties, Naples Yellow was the favorite yellow among landscape artists, especially in European art between 1750 and 1850, before it got replaced by lead chromate yellow and cadmium sulfide yellow. The yellow pigment found in renaissance pottery have also been identified to have used this particular yellow. For photography, simply use a yellow filter and make sure to shoot outdoors for a rich and vivid hue!
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