Sunday, December 13, 2015

Women's Dress Colors in the 1432 "Le Decameron"

I've been having some fun lately with color.

While looking over the images I've collected for my survey of early 15th Century French women's clothing, I was struck by how often the same colors came up. One explanation for this is that paint colors used in manuscripts during this period were a pretty well-established standard, even to the point that patrons dictated in their contracts what colors and even how much of each were to be used. But I'd like to think that the colors are representative of reality, at least in part, and that the colors used in the miniatures can reasonably be used to create a real-life color palette of the period for recreation.

I decided to start by grabbing a sampling of illuminations from Le Decameron (Arsenal MS 5070, reserve, 1432), taking them into Photoshop, and eye-dropping the dresses. I adjusted the colors a bit more to account for the dullness that comes from the scanning process, and came up with a five-color palette that captures the colors worn by women in Le Decameron fairly well:

Colors from Le Decameron (Arsenal MS 5070, reserve, 1432)

From there, I thought it would be fun to sort of define each of the colors, according to the variations in the manuscript. Then, armed with a range of acceptable colors, see if I could source fabric for each. For the most part, I wanted to find wool, since that's generally the best fabric across the board for this period, but I did look at B.Black & Son's Silk Matka and Fabric-Store's Linen for the colors as well.