Thursday, August 23, 2007

Colors in the Regency Part II


I guess one reason I decided to research colors was when I took a course on architecture in the Regency. As is often the case, things are just plain lucky. There

I was with one of my characters in No Regrets running his cane along a wrought iron fence. Now why? Well characters have to be something more than talking heads and they nod and they smile and they walk. But if that is all that they do they become pretty boring. Hmm, pretty much like me.

But of course people do more than that. They have nervous ticks, they peel labels off beer bottles, scratch things they should not scratch (ugh baseball players) and so on. So I happily wrote about the sight and sound of this character walking along running his cane along the iron fence. The black iron fence. Wrong. Wrought iron fences in the Regency were not painted black, they were painted green or blue.

Why is that, you may ask? If you are a history geek like me, you will ask it. Otherwise you may be bored out of your tree by now. They were painted green or blue because they liked the patina of old copper and copper turns green when it is old. The picture above is Apsley House and the fence is painted green. And this would have been a common sight in the Regency. Needless to say, my character now runs his cane along a green fence.

They also used some very odd names for colors. Here are a couple.

Coquelicot is the French name for the regular corn or field poppies (Papaver rhoeas) so poppy red it is. In Regency times, Paris was the fashion capital of the civilized world and French fashions the epitome of chic, so French names abounded in all matters of apparel. Coquelicot was at the height of fashion in 1794-99 but was used continuously throughout the Regency. It was such a bold color that for well brought up young ladies it was only permissible for trimmings or accessories

Primrose and Evening Primrose. Yes there are two colors of primrose. The soft, pale yellow of the common primrose, Primula vulgaris suitable for daywear and the biennial Evening Primrose (Cenothera biennis)pictured above, a much deeper and brighter yellow color. When gloves and boots are described to be of primrose color it is this darker, deeper yellow the writer had in mind. Both the primrose colors were popular during the whole Regency period, and the height of fashion 1807-1817.

It wouldn't be a Regency Article without adding puce. Puce is the French word for flea. The color is a brownish-purple or a purplish-pink, the color coagulated blood and was one of the most popular colors in 1805. My readings have always found that the villain, or a less well liked character wears puce. I have continued this tradition in my writings. There are of course many other colors, pomona green which we might described as apple green, and Paris green, made with the poisoness copper arsenic and was a bright emerald green. But that is all from me until next time.

Happy Rambles through your world of color. Aren't you glad you aren't a dog? They see only in black and white, so I'm told. No wonder they need those sensitive noses!!!