Article ID: CBB001252213

Color Theory in Medieval Islamic Lapidaries: Nishābūri, Tūsi and Kāshāni (2013)


This paper discusses descriptions of color theory in a series of lapidaries by Nishaburi, Tusi and Kashani, written in 1196, ca. 1258 and in 1300, respectively. The texts are almost identical and seem to originate from Nishaburi. They describe a color theory that deviates from the Aristotelian account in several ways. They represent one of the first instances in which it is stated explicitly that by mixing black and white, grey is produced. This contradicts the Aristotelian dogma that such mixtures may produce all other colors. The texts are the first to refer explicitly to a hue scale, recognizing that by mixing blue and yellow in different proportions, colors are produced that change gradually from blue, via green, to yellow. Only tonal scales, obtained by mixing a color pigment with black or white, had been described before. In spite of the description of a hue scale in this text and tonal scales in another text by Tusi, it is shown that the authors of these texts did not yet distinguish between differences in lightness and differences in hue.

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Authors & Contributors
Viano, Cristina
Rudolph, Ulrich
Perler, Dominik
Gutas, Dimitri
Ragep, F. Jamil
Abattouy, Mohammed
Arabic Sciences and Philosophy
Science in Context
Acta Philosophica
Suhayl: Journal for the History of the Exact and Natural Sciences in Islamic Civilisation
Archives Internationales d'Histoire des Sciences
History and Philosophy of Logic
Yale University
Leuven University Press
Arab/Islamic world, civilization and culture
Color theory
al-Ṭūsī, Abū Jaʿfar Muḥammad Naṣīr al-Dīn
al-Kindī, Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqub ibn Isḥāq
Ibn al-Haytham, Abū ʿAlī al-Ḥasan
Time Periods
13th century
9th century
10th century
Ikhwān al-Ṣafā (Brethren of Purity)

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