the colour yellow

Before I started reading Huge's Goya, I'd only really looked at the graphic work - Los Caprichos, The Disasters of War - and the late black paintings, all of which are more or less monochromatic if not actually black and white. I had not realised what a superb colorist he was. Out of all those many, varied, beautiful shades, it was his yellows that lingered in my mind: of a highwayman's jacket, of the trousers of an about to be executed street fighter, of the bodice of a maja on a balcony. Then these shades began to remind me of something, someone else, who turned out to be, of all painters, Vermeer.

Vermeer's yellows are different from Goya's - less ochre, less gold, more diaphanous - perhaps best seen in the colour of The Lacemaker's dress. (I also learned that Vermeer had used the same garment, a yellow robe trimmed with white, black-spotted fur, in no less than four other paintings, though not on the Lacemaker herself.)

I found that before sleep or upon waking, this, or these, shades would come to mind, a kind of membrane made not of pigment or cloth but of whatever materiality floats behind the eye in moments of recollection or reprise. And then, a stranger thing, I noticed that when I went back to the books to check my recall, what was on the page was never as vivid or as resonant as what I remembered.

How can this be? I know I am looking at reproductions, and that reproductions are not to be trusted; but is it possible that what I am remembering is not the reproduction at all, but the original? Is this how painting works, by giving an image of the unseen along with the lineaments of the seen? In my memory of those yellows was I remembering things I had never before seen?

Now, even when I look at something as ambiguous and haunting as the image below, it is the yellow of the enormous space above and behind the dog I see, not the previous gloom:

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