The Jos-Pe process in the Jacob Merkelbach collection at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam


  • Laura Covarsí Barita y Plata



Jos-Pe, Jacob Merkelbach, Dye-imbibition, Rijksmuseum, Subtractive Color Photography, Three Color Photography


The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam holds a collection of 208 photographs from the Merkelbach Studio (1907-1961 in Amsterdam). At least 28 of them were made with the Jos-Pe technique, which was invented in Hamburg in 1924 and remained in use for 20 years. This dye imbibition process is part of the early history of commercial color photography. This research project began with the characterization and visual examination of Jos-Pe prints on paper and three-color printing matrices on glass that are part of the Rijksmuseum’s Merkelbach collection. The Rijksmuseum Jos-Pe prints and plates, as well as (aged) mock-ups were analyzed with different techniques: specular light, UV fluorescence, microscopy, XRF and liquid chromatography UPLC. A cross section obtained from an unexposed Jos-Pe paper made it possible to determine the prints’ structure: a paper coated with a thin layer of barium sulfate, topped with a thin layer of gelatin. The analyzed glass plates revealed the use of dyes such as carmine, Induline Blue and Dianil Yellow 2R. Fading tests performed on mock-ups made of the red dye showed a Blue Wool Standard (BWS) lightfastness of 1-2. The fading tests of the other two dyes were not performed. The specialized literature points out the lightfastness of the blue dye as 4 and 2-3 BWS for the yellow dye.


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How to Cite

Covarsí, L. (2022) “The Jos-Pe process in the Jacob Merkelbach collection at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam”, Cultura e Scienza del Colore - Color Culture and Science, 14(01), pp. 16–23. doi: 10.23738/CCSJ.140102.



Color Photography & Film papers