Weld is a natural yellow dye made from the plant known as ‘Dyer’s rocket’: Reseda luteola L.. The flowers, stem and leaves can all be used, but apparently the best quality weld comes from the flowers. This plant grew all over Europe, and is both one of the oldest and most widely-used dyes. To turn the weld into a yellow pigment, the dye had to be precipitated onto a white powder, in this case, chalk.
Organic yellow lakes are hard to identify and to analyse because they fade when exposed to light. This might be why there are blue trees in Vermeer’s Little Street (ca. 1658) at the Rijksmuseum. Sometimes it’s possible to confirm the presence of a ‘vanished’ lake pigment if the substrate (chalk) still remains and can be detected using scientific analysis. Weld in the Girl with a Pearl Earring was first identified in the 1994 using a chromatographic technique called HPLC (high-performance liquid chromatography). As part of the recent re-examination of the samples, an enhanced version of this technique detected the luteolin and apigenin components from the weld.