Spotlight on: Naples Yellow

Naples yellow is made from chromium titanate mixed with titanium white. Its close relative, Naples yellow hue, is made of synthetic iron mixed with titanium white. It is a very opaque and permanent pigment.

The origins of Naples yellow remain unclear. Originally the pigment was made from lead antimoniate. 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. Its pigment properties were very similar to the popular flake white. Due to the toxicity of lead, however, Naples yellow has been artificially made since the 15th century using the non-toxic inorganic chromium titanate pigment.

There are various shades of Naples yellow, ranging from a greenish yellow to a pinkish-orange yellow. Often a range which includes Naples yellow will also include either a Naples yellow deep or a Naples yellow light. It is a dense pigment whose opaqueness, permanence and various shades make it an important addition to any artist’s palette.