KEY WORD : art history / paintings
A red dye, senryou 染料, and pigment *ganryou 顔料, made from the safflower, benibana 紅花 (Carthamus tinctorius L.). Benibana is a plant of the thistle family, introduced to Japan from China in the late7-8c, which grew throughout the country, especially in Yamagata prefecture. The petals were picked in July, dried, and then squeezed in water to leach out unwanted yellow dye. They were then squeezed in an alkali bath, traditionally of straw-ash or ash lye, and finally neutralized with vinegar to give a transparent red. During the Muromachi period, an alternative method was developed in which the benibana petals were washed and crushed immediately after picking. They then were fermented and worked with a pestle and mortar to give a paste that was formed into flat cakes, benimochi 紅餅. The benimochi were squeezed in ash lye to make a dye bath. Fabric dipped once in the bath was dyed a pink color; many dippings were needed to give scarlet. Beni was used to dye silk and cotton; embroidery yarn; weaving yarn; solid-color cloth; tie dyeing *shiborizome 絞染; and yuuzen dyeing *yuuzenzome 友禅染. Beni-dyed silk was such a precious commodity that until the Muromachi period, its use was restricted to the upper ranks of the nobility. Benibana also was used to make a pigment by adding a large quantity of vinegar to the dye bath, inducing sedimentation. The water was poured away and a thick residue collected. The pigment was used for highlights in yuuzen dyeing and for *beni-e 紅絵, a type of brush-colored woodblock print *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 made at the beginning of the 18c.


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