From mellow tones to sunshine brights, yellow has had a place in art and interior decoration for centuries. One of the oldest pigments of synthetic origin, dating from around 1620, is Naples yellow, also known as jaune d'antimoine.
Its origins have been hotly debated for years. Many, including artist Salvador Dali, suggested that it was mined from tempestuous Mount Vesuvius. Despite its veil of mystery, the colour steadily gained an enviable reputation: post-impressionist Paul Cezanne saw this particular yellow pigment as an essential cornerstone of any serious artist’s palette.
However, it was only in the 1970s that the hue returned to the spotlight when a collection of 90 small bottles was discovered in an old German pharmacy. Each had its own written calligraphy label, but it took the work of a laboratory in Amsterdam to fully identify their contents. The bottles contained a cache of pigments preserved from the 19th century and one of them was Naples yellow.
The earliest use of the pigment is thought to be in a Latin fresco by Andrea Pozo, an Italian baroque painter, who it is believed gave this hue its name. Naples yellow has a pleasing light, warm yellow tint; it is a noble colour, and, combined with deep green or royal blueaccents, the tone still has a classical, Neapolitan flavour when applied to interiors schemes. This splash of mellow sunshine remains just as fresh today as when it was first created.