Elephant’s Breath & London Smoke

I spent over an hour in my local fabric shop with a new friend called Lulu.

Long story – a new 1800’s gown in the prep stage. Colour chosen (finally) deep wine red cotton.

Anyhoo and by the by. Through a different source I was recommended a book to read called Elephant’s Breath and London Smoke.

I knew immediately that this was about colour. My youngest and I painted his bedroom Elephant’s Breath.

WAY back in 2009 I wrote a post about 17th century fabric colours.

17th Century Textile Colours

One of my first ever research projects was on 17th century costume.
I got a beautiful old, old costume book from the library and much to my disgust – I can’t remember the name of it.

Anyway – from that book I made a note of the names used for textile colours in that era.
They are so evocative and always set the imagination running.

henrietta_maria_van_dyck_1633

PANSY FLOWERING; RAYFLAX BLUE; SUMMER BLUE; ROYAL BLUE; TURQUOISE; WATER COLOUR; PALE BLUE; BEAN BLUE; PASTEL;

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DAWN; CORAL; PEACH BLOSSOM; PALE YELLOW; GOLDEN YELLOW; CANARY; SULPHUR ;

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WILLOW GREEN; BUDDING GREEN; BRIGHT GREEN; BOTTLE GREEN; SEA GREEN; VERDIGRIS; GOSLING GREEN;

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GREY; DOVE; ARGENT; PEARL GREY; SLATE, PIGEON; SILVER GREY; CRYSTALLINE;

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REDDISH PURPLE;BRIGHT RED; AMARANTH; CARNATION; RUSSETT; SCARLET; OX BLOOD; ORANGE; NONAIN – ROSY WHITE.

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And colours to try and get our minds around.

I’ll have a go…

I love the idea of SICK SPANIARD – a yellowy olive.

JUDAS COLOUR- Silver.

TEMPS PERDU- I see this as a pale violet.

ANGRY MONKEY- Is red brown too obvious?

APE’S LAUGH- Again, a reddy colour. But only if they were always being pedantic

RESURRECTION – Oh Gawd! A blue-grey????

KISS ME DARLING – Pale pink, maybe.

MORAL SIN – Love this. A deep, vibrant, singing red.

TRISTAMI – Sorry, can only think of pepparami here. Oops.

SCRATCH FACE – Purpley (if there’s such a word)

SMOKED OX HAM COLOUR – Pinky, purpley (if it’s not a word, it should be!)

LOVE LONGINGS – Help!

CHIMNEY SWEEP – Too obvious????

FADING FLOWER – Mmmn. Pastel. Maybe like ashes of roses.

DYING MONKEY – Black, brown….ish

MERRY WIDOW – Deep Purple – nearly black but not quite.

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This new recommendation looks wonderful.

Have you ever read about a Victorian dress, and wondered: “What color, exactly, is heliotrope?”Did you ever read an Elizabethan novel and say: “Did anyone really wear Puke?”When Chaucer wrote: “his eyen bright citrin” – did you wonder about what color is citrin?This book will tell you about color in history – the names of colors, when they were used, how they were used, what they looked like, and where they came from. There are dye recipes, paint ingredients, poetic language and general commentary – all in the words of period writers. Along with the glossary of color names, you will learn about mourning colors, the effects of artificial light on color, advice on what colors to wear, the colors found in cosmetics and theatrical make-up, and the names of the colors of horses. You can read about symbolism in colors, heraldic colors, and complaints about the names of colors. I have studied fashion magazines, books of dye recipes, art books, painter’s manuals, mineralogy guides, tomes on color theory, metaphysical texts, poetry and fiction, but especially period dictionaries and encyclopedias. Any resource that might give a hint on what a color looked like or how it may have been used was examined, from Chaucer to Chemistry Journals. Most of the entries were printed in English, American, Canadian and Australian publications from around 1380 to 1922. Because, French was the language of fashion, many of the English terms are French words. I have tried to explain those colors, too.This dictionary endeavors to define color names in the words of the English speaking people who used those colors. It is especially aimed at women’s fashion, but artists will also find it useful. Now in its second edition, “Elephant’s Breath and London Smoke” has more than 600 new and updated entries. If you are curious about color, you will want this book.

BTW. It’s coloUr. Too many letters in the word ? ? ?

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