For years the ingredients of Indian Yellow were a mystery. Speculation abounded, many noted the smell and believed that it was the urine of camels or snakes. It wasn’t until 1883 that these rumours were settled about its origin.
Indian yellow was prepared from the urine of cows, fed only on mango leaves and made exclusively in the Indian village of Mirzapur. The yellow pigment was re ned from the liquid by heating and then pressed into round balls and dried.
Given no other source of nutrition for fear that it would reduce the strength of colour, the mango-fed cows were naturally in a very poor state of health, to the disgust of regular dairy farmers, who called the milkmen ‘cow-destroyers’.
Known in India since the fteenth century under the name peori, it seems to be of Persian origin.
A clear, luminescent yellow pigment, it was used by European painters from the 15th to the 19th century.
By 1890 legislation in Bengal to prevent cruelty to animals stopped the production of Indian yellow and production had completely disappeared by 1908.