Did you enjoy our last post about the color blue and its vicissitudes? Hopefully, because here comes the second part! We don’t want to turn it into a blue book, but a bit more knowledge never hurt anybody yet 😉 So, where were we? Oh right, ultramarine! So now it’s time for…
AZZURRO DELLA MAGNA
Once blue came into the temples and settled permanently on the robes of the Blessed Virgin, there was no stopping of it. It gradually became a luxury color for the princes and kings of Europe. The first king who would regularly dress in blue was Louis IX of France, better known as… Saint Louis. It was copied by the nobles and became the hottest fashion of the time. Even the mythical King Arthur started to be painted in blue gowns. However, ultramarine in the Middle Ages and later in the Renaissance was more costly than gold, which, even with the support of wealthy patrons, caused painters certain problems.
The substitute was azurite, a form of copper carbonate, called by the Italians “Azzurro Della Magna”, by the British “German azure”, and by the German themselves “bergblau”, or mountain stone. It was mined in several regions of Europe and made pale blue with a hint of green, which was just perfect for painting skies. It was the favorite background color of the German painter Albrecht Dürer. Maybe it will become your favorite color too? How about painting your ceiling in light azure or cyan shade? By the way, the name for cyan also roots from azurite which in Greek was called “kuanos”. With such a color you will fly away into the wide blue yonder!
Doris Leslie Blau blue antique rug
THE WAR OF BLUES
Making pigments for paints is one thing, but dying fabrics is a completely different story. When blue came into the spotlight and became the most desired color, especially among the rich and wealthy, the dye industry responded in the blink of an eye. Several dyeing centers were created, in which, for lack of better solution, dyes were made from the previously scorned woad. The color was called “pastel”, so you may imagine its hue was something close to today’s pastel blue. Coming closer to Renaissance, due to high supply, blue became the color worn by the folk and artisans, not only nobles. Remember when we compared the history of blue to a giant swing? Yes, the change in moods happened again and blue started to be considered too common.
Even the Pope, Pius V, did not want it for the ecclesiastical dress. But the industry was doing fine, at least until the 15th century when a brand new blue dye arrived from Asia to Europe, thanks to the trade route opened by Vasco Da Gama. The dye bore the name of Indigo (because it was mostly from India). It threatened the home production because of its much deeper hue, better quality and a far easier manufacturing process (which did not involve human urine, like in case of the woad plant but we will not write about it here). The countries with prosperous pastel industries tried to block indigo by, for instance, outlawing it, claiming it to be poisonous, calling it a “Devil’s eye” or an Indian drug. All in vein. Of course it took time and effort but the – as we believe in Doris Leslie Blau – quality always wins.
THE SIXTH COLOR OF THE RAINBOW
Indigo dye is made from the plant indigofera tinctoria, also called “true indigo”. Obviously, in India and the major part of Asia it was known long before Europe got to hear about it. It has served as a natural dye of fabrics and separate threads, which allowed Oriental weavers to create beautiful, rich blue carpets. Most of the antique Indian and Persian rugs’ colors remain indifferent to the passage of time thanks to the good quality dyes. It still is the best natural blue dye in the traditional carpet industry. Indigo’s distinctive hue earned it a place among the colors of the rainbow, classified by Isaac Newton. Indigo was not just a dye anymore – it became the name for a separate color. If you are a fan of fabrics, try getting a genuine indigo-dyed rug or tapestry. It will beautifully complement your room and give it certain depth. If not, maybe indigo curtains, which will emphasize the grace of the light passing through the glass, are for you? The decision is up to you, but trust us with that one – when it comes to interior designing, indigo deserves the highest respect.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW, SOMETHING BORROWED, SOMETHING BLUE
We are approaching the end of our tale about blue. Of course, there is so much more that can be said about this color but it is a material for a book rather than a blog post. Colors are extremely important in people’s lives – they attract attention, bear meaning, even evoke emotions.” What is your favorite color?” is one of the earliest questions children learn to answer. Blue acquired many connotations in various cultures, which often find reflection in language. “To feel blue” means to be sad, because blue, being a cold color, is sometimes associated with melancholy.
On the other hand, a bride is supposed to wear something blue for her wedding as a sign of loyalty and faithfulness. “Blue blood” is a sign of a royal descent, thanks to the former success of blue among medieval noblemen and the fact that they never tanned ( being pale was in vogue) and you could literary see their blue veins. In interior decorating blue is an extremely desired and frequently picked color. It is soothing, unobtrusive and works beautifully with light. Do not be afraid of it, the right shade and right amount will not make your interior feel cold, on the contrary! It will result in a timeless elegance which will never go out of fashion (ok, as history shows maybe just for a little while 😉 )