At one time in history, the English word pink referred to a yellow colour. There is no satisfactory explanation as to why the word pink meant a yellow colour. There is speculation, owing to its greenish yellow tone, that it is derived from the German word pinkeln translated in a dictionary of 1798 as ‘to piss, to make water.’
The colour most often known as Dutch pink was ‘a yellow lake prepared from Persian berries or from quercitron and used chiefly as an artist’s pigment,’ according to Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, under the definition of Dutch pink. This colour was ‘a light yellow that is greener and slightly darker than jasmine and greener and stronger than average maize or popcorn—called also English pink, Italian pink, madder yellow, stil de grain, yellow madder.’
When we review the literature on Dutch pink, we find that it is a lake pigment made from various organic sources, the most often mentioned is Rhamnus or buckthorn berries. These pigments also contained other yellow dyes, such as fustic, turmeric, weld, dyers’ broom and dyer’s oak. Chemically, the colorants of all these yellow dyes are types of aromatic molecules known as flavanoids. The various yellow dyes all have a very similar appearance and were probably used indiscriminately by colour makers and artists.