Page from Theodore Turquet De Mayerne's manuscript on 17th century painting techniques, B.M. Sloane 2052, 1620-1646
Project (2011-2014)

Color Does Matter

This project concentrated on Baroque color theory and practice in the histories of art and science. It was based upon a cross-border cooperation between the disciplines of art history, the histories of science and philosophy, and museum restoration work. This is particularly appropriate as the creation of a systematic color order was due to the exchange of art, natural philosophy and science. Hence, this project investigated seventeenth-century artists’ recipes and technical treatises as well as art theoretical, philosophical, and scientific writings on color.

A review of Baroque writings on color practice and theory, of recipes or artists’ treatises, was followed by an outline of the extent of the surviving material, the contexts in which it has survived, and the difficulties of technical terminology. A chronological review was constructed of the nature of technical texts from the beginning to the end of the seventeenth century, covering their origins, transmission, type of content, and relevance to actual contemporary workshop practice.

The corpus of available writings on color rapidly expands when we consider not only art theoretical treatises but also practical manuals for the art of limning, dyeing, or cosmetics. In addition, we have to consider early lapidaries, books on glass making and botanical treatises, as well as the whole range of baroque literature on color symbolism. The project centered on the epistemic simultaneities in the varying conceptual frameworks of color theory, be it in natural philosophy, physics, or art.