Colour Ranges

Nov 13th, 2011 | | Colour Ranges | History | 7 Comments

The Hierarchy of Colour in Eighteenth Century Decoration

Handel House Bedroom - Matthew Hollow

Lead Colour in the Handel House Museum © Matthew Hollow – with thanks to the Museum

The use of colour in the decoration of early eighteenth century interiors was much more straightforward and austere than many people believe. The relative complexity of the panelled wall surface was not an excuse for the elaborate picking out beloved of so many interior designers. This was clear when one realises that in a simplified form the panelled wall was designed to represent the Classical order:

The rest of this essay has been removed after five years. You can now read more about this in The Anatomy of Colour, published by Thames & Hudson and available from John Sandoe (Books).

Papers and Paints can be found here:

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Comments (7)

Leah Marie BrownNo Gravatar » 02. Dec, 2011

Brilliant blog post. Merci!

PatrickNo Gravatar » 02. Dec, 2011

You’re very kind. Thank you.

Sarah WaldockNo Gravatar » 20. Oct, 2013

Patrick, I always find your articles so interesting and informative, and I’ve just repainted a room in a novel I’m in the throes of writing after reading this, because I’d forgotten I should obscure wood. My Elizabethan linenfold panelling is now stone-coloured.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 23. Oct, 2013

Thanks Sarah. In fact Elizabethan panelling was usually left as oak when not painted decoratively. It might be safer to revert to bare wood in this case.

Clay StaffordNo Gravatar » 12. Dec, 2013

Patrick – Most informative post. Thanks for sharing this information and taking the time to put it together.

Mike ShottonNo Gravatar » 09. Dec, 2014

We live in a 1760-ish house near Banbury. One room has all the original softwood panelling, which a previous owner stripped (it would appear, by sandblasting!) before applying wax polish (!!). We want to restore it to its original appearance, and have even found a trace of the original colour. Would you be prepared to help and advise? We can, of course, send photos etc.

PatrickNo Gravatar » 09. Dec, 2014

Oh dear. The wax is likely to cause problems of adhesion for subsequent paints. You will have to remove as much as possible. The only way to learn anything of the earlier decorative schemes is by making cross sections of the surviving paint layers. However these are likely to be much distorted unless little ‘islands’ of original paint survive. Sadly one can do nothing from photographs. It may be best to use an off-white / pale stone colour as (depending on context) this is what it is likely to have been.