Stepping Back: Colours Used in the Georgian Period and Regency

Contributed by Sarah Waldock

Colours Used in the Georgian Period and Regency. Also, when known, date of introduction or when particularly fashionable. Otherwise I have noted when it was definitely in use. ‘The Ladies’ Monthly Museum’ and ‘Ackermann’s Repository’ are to be referenced in this. Also ‘The Creation of Colour in the 18th century’ by Sarah Lowengard. Some colours mentioned in Old Bailey online.

Thanks to Charles Bazalgette for making available his notes to extend this list.

The colours are broken up into the following sections; Reds/Pinks; Oranges/Yellows; Greens; Blues/Indigos; Violets; Browns; Neutrals

REDS/PINKS

image001 Aurora described as chilli coloured elsewhere; so a brownish orange-red from 1809
image003 Blossom blossom coloured is a pale pink certainly in use in 1813
image002 Carmine Dark pinkish red. First recorded as a colour 1523 popular in 18th century.
image006 Claret Very dark, purplish red.
image005 Coquelicot Poppy red, being the French name for the field poppy. A bold colour and only to be used as trimming by young ladies. Height of fashion 1794-9 but used through the period; according to Austen in high fashion winter 1798-9
image004 Morone Peony red 1811
image007 Pale Pink One of the season’s colours of 1802
image008 Peach what it says on the label.
image009 Pompadour aka Rose Pompadour May have been named for the S. American bird the pompadore for its red-purple plumage rather than after La Pompadour. The colour name appears to have been used for a range of shades
 image010 Rose A rather dark reddish pink; between red and magenta, the colour of Rosa rugosa. Used from 1382.
image011 Rose Pink A pinker colour than rose, used from 1761.
image012 Turkey Red Named for the place not the fowl. Derived from Madder and is a cool bluish red. The name refers to a particular process of preparing the madder that took 3 weeks or more. Colourfast and will not fade. First practically produced in Europe [in Scotland] 1780’s. Became particularly popular in the 1820’s

ORANGES & YELLOWS

image013 Apollo Bright gold, 1823 onward
image014 Canary A bright intense yellow [close to acid yellow]
image015 Evening Primrose named for the flower, an American species, darker and richer than primrose. Height of fashion 1807-17 and just to be confusing usually referred to just as primrose.
image016 Jonquil named for the wild daffodil; a very pure yellow. The must have colour of 1801
image017 Nankeen A colour imitating the natural yellowish brown of the raw cotton woven into the cloth from Nanking also called nankeen. The name was used for a range of shades
image019 Orange Certainly a colour mentioned for cloth
image020 Primrose Named for the flower, a pale and delicate yellow. Height of fashion 1807-17
image021 Saffron Between yellow and orange, the product of the saffron crocus
image022 Straw golden beige, the colour of ripening corn, which is to say corn to make bread not sweetcorn. A popular colour in 1802.

GREENS

image023 Bottle Green probably what was later known as Rifle green; used in 1790’s
image024 Bronze Green A very dark green with a blue tint.
image025 Corbeau coloured A greenish black like a crow’s wing. In use in 1790’s. Nearer black than green.
image026 Emerald Green Also known as Scheele’s Green and unfortunately very poisonous because of being made with arsenic! This was popular because it did not fade. AKA Paris green, Schweinfurth green, Imperial green, Vienna green. Having been already very popular in wallpaper this became fashionable in fabric 1817
image027 Olive dull olive coloured green
image028 Parrot Green Dark yellow green 18th century
image029 Pomona Green THE green of the Regency; A THE green of the Regency era. Apple green by the name, but dark and rich. The rich bright green made by overdying yellow with blue [I hypothesise that this is what was in the Medieval era was known as Lincoln Green made by overdying weld or saffron with woad]. Name used from 1811/12 when it became fashionable
image030 Rifle Green The very dark colour green worn by the rifle brigades. Not used until after 1800 when the Rifle Brigade was first formed.
image031 Saxon Green Sage green. Made similarly to Saxon Blue with the introduction of dyeing by fustic [a yellow dye].
image032 Spring [green] A brighter more yellow shade of Pomona green. Name coined 1766

BLUES/INDIGOES

image033 Aetherial Sky blue; name from 1820
image034 Azure Bright blue, a blue-cyan, the colour of bright blue skies 1820
image035 Barbel Sky blue 1820
image036 Celestial Blue Name first used 1535; a light sky blue popular in early 1810’s
image037 Clarence Another one described as sky blue, 1820
image038 Indigo Dyed using the Indigo plant. Dark blue, hint of purple
image039 Marie Louise 1812, Calamine blue, which is to say a slightly more turquoise colour than Robin’s egg blue. Bluer and lighter than turquoise, bluer and deeper than aqua
image040 Mazarine blue A very deep colour, named for Cardinal Mazarin
image041 Mexican Steel blue 1817
image042 Prussian Blue A dark blue with a touch of green to it
image043 Saxon Blue A soft greyish-lavender tinged blue. Made by dissolving indigo in oil of vitriol [sulphuric acid] now mostly called smalt blue

VIOLETS

image044 Damascen Damson coloured, very dark purple
image045 Lavender A pale greyish purple
image046 Lilac Pale tone of violet; first used to describe colour 1775. Popular 1802
image047 Mulberry A reddish purple, very very dark
image048 Princess Elizabeth Soft pale blue with hint of lilac
image049 Puce brownish reddish purple, the name is from the French for ‘flea’ and refers to the colour of coagulated blood inside that parasite. In 1805 it was THE colour. Initially popularised by Marie Antoinette. Also popular in 1802
image050 Purple probably a dullish purple rather than the bright colour we think of today
image051 Violet Blueish purple; used as colour name from 1370. So synonymous with purple that Isaac Newton used it in describing the colours in the spectrum. Early use of the name seems to imply that it was a blue colour.
image052 Stifled Sigh Aka soupir étouffe which according to Dr Johnson is the palest of lilacs 18th century

BROWNS

image053 Cameleopard French beige; more a light brown than a beige per se. 1825
image054 Carmelite Dark brown, the colour of a Carmelite monk’s robe.
image055 Cinammon coloured What it says on the label
 image056 Devonshire Brown Named for the notorious Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. Regained popularity 1812. ? light tan brown
image057 Drab Name dates from 1686. a yellowish brown on the browner side of nankeen; patterns in drab were often made by patterning the fabric with different mordants and overdying in one colour, whereat the different mordants produced different colour responses from the dye, but all toning. Nowadays called mode beige, a very dark beige.
image058 Dust of Ruins Described as squirrel. A drab tan then? 1822. Possibly a colour akin to the reddish dust of the ruins at Karnak following on from all things Egyptian
image059 Egyptian Brown Described as mace, the rich reddish brown used in Egyptian tomb paintings to depict male skin colour, all things Egyptian becoming fashionable with the French ‘archaeology’ there.   1809
image060 Noiset[te] Hazelnut coloured
image062 Paris mud Colour designed by Marie Antoinette’s designer based on the colour of Parisian mud.
image062 Snuff coloured What it says on the label
image063 Terre d’Egypte Brick Red; 1823, possible a deeper shade of dust of ruins?

NEUTRALS

image064 Esterhazy Silver grey
image065 Fawn One of the season’s colours of 1802
image066 Iron grey What it says on the label
image067 Isabella Cream, first recorded use 1601 when referring to the colour of an animal’s coat as very pale cream; a pale palomino colour. Used for fabric in Queen Elizabeth I’s wardrobe. AKA Isabelline
image068 Ivory Off white with cream tint
image069 Russian Flame Pale beige 1811
image070 Slate Dark blueish grey; Pale slate is mentioned in describing a fashion plate 1811

Sarah Waldock can be found at http://sarahs-history-place.blogspot.com, She is the author of Renaissance murder mysteries and Regency murder mysteries, and can also to be found at http://sarahs-cat-spot.blogspot.co.uk/ for tales of cats.

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