Nov 1st, 2011 | | Aesthetics | Colour Ranges | No Comments

Horticultural Colours (1)

Rouge Garance Passé

Rouge Garance passé (Dull Madder Red) – the colour of the faded trousers of the French Line Infantry

I have written about important collections of colour on several other occasions – most recently Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours and prior to that – Thomas Parsons’ A Tint Book of Historical Colours. Here, I will look at another key work of the twentieth century.

Société française des Chrysanthémistes
The Chrysanthemum was brought to Europe in the 17th century. Linnaeus named it from the Greek word chrysous, “golden” (the colour of the original flowers), and -anthemon, meaning flower.

It was not until the beginning of the nineteenth century that they were cultivated in France. In the 1860s, horticulturalists introduced new varieties of the flower, namely the pompon variety, which became especially popular in that country. By the turn of the twentieth century, the assortment of chrysanthemum colours had become so extensive that the Société française des chrysanthémistes published (in 1905) a Réptertoire des couleurs, which then came to be used as a colour catalogue in many other fields.1

Repertoire - cover

The full title of the work was the Répertoire de couleurs pour aider à la détermination des couleurs des fleurs, des feuillages et des fruits and it was primarily the work of René Oberthür, with the help of Henri Dauthenay and also Julien Mouillefert, C. Harman Payne, Max Leichtlin and N. Severi. It was published in two volumes comprising 365 plates with an explanatory text. The colours were selected particularly in connection with the colours of fruit, flowers and foliage. The name of each colour is also given in English, German, Spanish and Italian.

Four shades were provided of each colour, with a brief description of where each could be seen. For example, in the plate at the top of the page, as well as being the colour of the faded trousers of the French Line Infantry, Tints 1 and 2 were described as being the colours seen on the flowers of the orchid Sophronitis Grandiflora.

French drummer
French line infantry drummer – François Hippolyte Lalaisse

I first encountered the work (as I do with many such collections of colours) when a client brought it into my shop Papers and Paints and asked us to match one of the colours in a paint.

Violet et Jaune
Rich Pansy Violet and Japanese Yellow

Here are two more plates from the work.

Needless to say, works such as this are increasingly hard to find (although a copy of the book can be downloaded HERE and, if you are feeling rich, it can be bought HERE

Carthamus Red and Salmon Pink

Carthamus Red is obtained from the dried petals of Carthamus tinctorius L.

Pourpre et Bleu
French Purple and Dauphin’s Blue

The description indicates that in Antiquity the purple was obtained from the shells of various molluscs, in particular Murex Brandaris. Dauphin’s Blue is described as being a colour between blue and violet.

Rose et Jaune
Deep Rose Pink and Indian Yellow

The pink is described as being the colour of the Pelargonium zonale. Indian Yellow was originally manufactured in Bengal from the urine of cattle fed only on mango leaves and water. The urine would be collected and dried, producing foul-smelling hard dirty yellow balls of the raw pigment, called “purree”.

An English development of this work appeared in 1938 – The Wilson Colour Chart.

Colour Matching
Of course, it is always more interesting when a client brings in something quite rare or exotic to be colour-matched, but please remember that we are just as happy reproducing old paint and working from material or old wallpaper.

1 Laura Anne Kalba, from a very interesting chapter on colour fireworks in nineteenth century Paris – “Outside the Lines: the Production and Consumption of Color in Nineteenth-Century France”. PhD thesis at the University of Southern California. August 2008. Chapter 4. p.222.

Papers and Paints can be found here:

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