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Question - Purple Paint on Leather?

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  • Corwyn and Carowyn
    Greetings to the list! I just got into a conversation last week about painting leather goods in period, and a gentle in our shire was very excited to hear that
    Message 1 of 9 , Jan 9, 2003
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      Greetings to the list!

      I just got into a conversation last week about painting leather goods in
      period, and a gentle in our shire was very excited to hear that he could
      paint bright colors on his leather. I know I have documentation for
      white, red, yellow, green, brown, and black, but I don't remember seeing
      purple. Am I mistaken, or is he out of luck? He wants to be as accurate
      as possible, so if it wasn't purple, then there will be no purple. Does
      anyone recall seeing purple on extant pieces?

      HmmmMMmmmm.... okay, my fevered brain just made a jump.... Would the
      availability of paints for leather have affected heraldic colors in
      period? Now, there's a strange correlation! I wonder if there's
      anything to it??

      -Caro


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    • bartele01 <stanislausshadow@relative.net>
      Greetings, Having just completed some research on the subject of colors on leather in the 2nd century (specifically 2nd cent. Coptic), I think it would be
      Message 2 of 9 , Jan 10, 2003
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        Greetings,

        Having just completed some research on the subject of colors on
        leather in the 2nd century (specifically 2nd cent. Coptic), I think
        it would be highly unlikely that they would dyed or painted leather
        purple in any period. It's possible but purple was so hard to make
        that I think it would have been reserved for fabric.

        Shadow
        AKA Ellen Bartel



        --- In medieval-leather@yahoogroups.com, Corwyn and Carowyn
        <silveroak@j...> wrote:
        >
        > Greetings to the list!
        >
        > I just got into a conversation last week about painting leather
        goods in
        > period, and a gentle in our shire was very excited to hear that he
        could
        > paint bright colors on his leather. I know I have documentation for
        > white, red, yellow, green, brown, and black, but I don't remember
        seeing
        > purple. Am I mistaken, or is he out of luck? He wants to be as
        accurate
        > as possible, so if it wasn't purple, then there will be no purple.
        Does
        > anyone recall seeing purple on extant pieces?
        >
        > HmmmMMmmmm.... okay, my fevered brain just made a jump.... Would
        the
        > availability of paints for leather have affected heraldic colors in
        > period? Now, there's a strange correlation! I wonder if there's
        > anything to it??
        >
        > -Caro
        >
        >
        > ________________________________________________________________
        > Sign Up for Juno Platinum Internet Access Today
        > Only $9.95 per month!
        > Visit www.juno.com
      • Jonathan T Getty
        Ellen, would you mind posting some information on what colors they *did* use? That d be really interesting to know... Jon
        Message 3 of 9 , Jan 13, 2003
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          Ellen, would you mind posting some information on what colors they *did*
          use? That'd be really interesting to know...

          Jon

          > Having just completed some research on the subject of colors on
          > leather in the 2nd century (specifically 2nd cent. Coptic), I think
          > it would be highly unlikely that they would dyed or painted leather
          > purple in any period. It's possible but purple was so hard to make
          > that I think it would have been reserved for fabric.
        • Sharon Smith Hurlburt
          ... Leather dye might have been rare but purple paints are another thing entirely. The Celts used a fair bit of purple in their illuminations (Book of Kells,
          Message 4 of 9 , Jan 14, 2003
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            At 10:32 PM 1/10/2003 +0000, you wrote:
            Greetings,

               Having just completed some research on the subject of colors on
            leather in the 2nd century (specifically 2nd cent. Coptic), I think
            it would be highly unlikely that they would dyed or painted leather
            purple in any period.  It's possible but purple was so hard to make
            that I think it would have been reserved for fabric.

            Shadow
            AKA Ellen Bartel

            Leather dye might have been rare but purple paints are another thing entirely.  The Celts used a fair bit of purple in their illuminations (Book of Kells, etc.).  They made it from the shells of a bug that they crushed up (forget the name of the bug right now).  It's an odd shade at full strength but lightens up to a really nice lavender color if you mix some white with it (lead white is period, titanium white is less likely to make you sick). 

            Other periods have other pigments available to them & blue was very common, particularly lapis.  Reds are also found through out period.  And they certainly knew how to mix paint!  :)  The real problem with purples- even in modern paints- is that they tend to be more fugitive, which is to say that they fade over time.

            Sharon/Morwenna,
            who dabbles in calligraphy & illumination- particularly Celtic.....




            "You've been wasting all my time this time
            Maybe you never learned to take
            And if I'm hanging on to your shade
            I guess I'm way beyond the pale"
            -Tori Amos, "Doughnut Song"

            "A rough kilt in the glen is the true measure of a day"

            Si Vellem Sententam Tuam Audire Legerem Intestina

          • Michael Sheldon
            ... Pedantic mode... The terms Celtic and Irish are NOT interchangeable, and in this context, it was the Irish who were the master illuminators of the period.
            Message 5 of 9 , Jan 14, 2003
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              >The Celts used a fair bit of purple in their illuminations
              >(Book of Kells, etc.).

              Pedantic mode...

              The terms Celtic and Irish are NOT interchangeable, and in this context, it
              was the Irish who were the master illuminators of the period.

              The true Celts were primarily a continental European people.

              The Irish people have a Celtic language, and Celtic inspired artwork.
              However, there is little archeological evidence to support the *people*
              being of significant Celtic ancestry. In fact, quite the opposite, the
              archeological evidence would suggest that there was not any major influx of
              Celtic peoples into the Irish island, rather that the few who did go to
              Ireland somehow attained positions of significant influence, which resulted
              in a Celtic language and Celtic inspiration in the artwork. Even then, both
              the language, and the artwork have significant differences compared to the
              continental Celts.


              Sorry, just a bit of a sticky point with me... :)


              Michael J. Sheldon
              http://www.desertraven.com/
              Make a fast friend, adopt a greyhound!
            • Sharon Smith Hurlburt
              ... Wheee-he! :) ... It was the Monks who were the masters & they had monasteries outside of Ireland- like in Scotland. : And I m thinking that at least one
              Message 6 of 9 , Jan 14, 2003
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                At 03:30 PM 1/14/2003 -0700, you wrote:
                >The Celts used a fair bit of purple in their illuminations
                >(Book of Kells, etc.).

                Pedantic mode...

                Wheee-he!  :)


                The terms Celtic and Irish are NOT interchangeable, and in this context, it
                was the Irish who were the master illuminators of the period.

                It was the Monks who were the masters & they had monasteries outside of Ireland- like in Scotland.  :  And I'm thinking that at least one of the books was found in Scotland- although I could be wrong on that point.



                The true Celts were primarily a continental European people.

                Define "true" Celts.


                The Irish people have a Celtic language, and Celtic inspired artwork.
                However, there is little archeological evidence to support the *people*
                being of significant Celtic ancestry.

                Here's the thing- academically speaking, "Celts" are defined as those having a Celtic language.  Therefore, the Irish would be by definition Celts.  The racial/genetic argument has been largely discredited- as I understand it- because there's not a significant enough difference between any of the groups in Europe.  Celt is a cultural term, not a racial one.

                And yes, the art of the folks on the Isles differs from that of the Continent, but there's two very distinct art styles on the continent, too- LaTene & Halstatt.  They're all still Celtic. 


                Sorry, just a bit of a sticky point with me... :)

                Me, too.  :)

                Sharon/Morwenna,
                who's actually glad to be discussing this in a Medieval & artistic context, rather than a Pagan one.....




                Michael J. Sheldon
                http://www.desertraven.com/
                Make a fast friend, adopt a greyhound!


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                "You've been wasting all my time this time
                Maybe you never learned to take
                And if I'm hanging on to your shade
                I guess I'm way beyond the pale"
                -Tori Amos, "Doughnut Song"

                "A rough kilt in the glen is the true measure of a day"

                Si Vellem Sententam Tuam Audire Legerem Intestina

              • Alasdair Muckart
                ... That would be the book of Kells :-) Current thinking is that it was probably illumiated at the Columban abbey [1] on Iona and removed to the abbey at
                Message 7 of 9 , Jan 14, 2003
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                  On Tue, 14 Jan 2003, Sharon Smith Hurlburt wrote:

                  >>The terms Celtic and Irish are NOT interchangeable, and in this context, it
                  >>was the Irish who were the master illuminators of the period.
                  >
                  >It was the Monks who were the masters & they had monasteries outside of
                  >Ireland- like in Scotland. : And I'm thinking that at least one of the
                  >books was found in Scotland- although I could be wrong on that point.

                  That would be the book of Kells :-) Current thinking is that it was
                  probably illumiated at the Columban 'abbey'[1] on Iona and removed to the
                  abbey at Kells just prior to the c840 sacking of Iona by the Norse that
                  led to the abandonment of Iona by monks until the 11th century when the
                  Benedictines settled in.

                  [1] The Iona Abbey didn't exist in it's current form back then, the
                  current one having been built in the 11th century by the Benedictines and
                  restored during WWII by George MacLeod and various Church of Scotland
                  ministers.

                  --
                  Al. <silver@...>
                  Ex-inhabitant of Iona Abbey.
                • Michael Sheldon
                  ... Nonetheless, they were *Irish* monks. The Irish were notorious wanderers during the medieval period, and established an amazing monastery system. Note,
                  Message 8 of 9 , Jan 15, 2003
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                    >It was the Monks who were the masters & they had
                    >monasteries outside of Ireland- like in Scotland.
                    > : And I'm thinking that at least one of the books
                    >was found in Scotland- although I could be wrong on
                    >that point.

                    Nonetheless, they were *Irish* monks. The Irish were notorious wanderers
                    during the medieval period, and established an amazing monastery system.
                    Note, however, that the only similarity between Irish monasteries and later
                    monasteries of the Benedictines, etc. is in the name. Irish monasteries were
                    NOT usually cloistered groups of celebate monks. Irish monasteries tended to
                    have large populations of common folk living in and near them, and many
                    monks (even abbots) were married and had families living with them.

                    The Book of Kells is believed to have been started at the monastery on Iona,
                    and was brought back to the Irish mainland prior to completion due to the
                    high risk of Viking raids. At that time, the Irish (Dal Raida) had a large
                    presence in Scotland, which later became the basis for the gaelic influence
                    in Scotland.

                    A funny note. At the time of the Saxon invasions of England, there were
                    several Irish monasteries in England. The Irish disliked the Saxons so much
                    that the abbots of those monasteries are reported as having refused to
                    convert the pagan Saxons to christianity, as they did not want to see them
                    again in the afterlife. :)


                    Back to the subject though...

                    Purple (from murex) seems to have been a common enough color in Ireland for
                    both illumination, and dying of cloth, but it's impossible to know if it was
                    used on leather. On the one hand, it seems logical to assume that it would
                    have been attempted, on the other hand, hindsight is always 20/20, etc... In
                    general, it seems that analyzing dyes and paints on leather goods is rarely
                    done by archeologists, making our lives just that much more difficult.


                    Michael J. Sheldon
                    http://www.desertraven.com/
                    Make a fast friend, adopt a greyhound!
                  • Tim Bray
                    ... What about those purple-paged Carolingian MSS? If those are vellum, then I suppose you could consider that purple-dyed leather... They certainly are
                    Message 9 of 9 , Jan 15, 2003
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                      >Leather dye might have been rare but purple paints are another thing
                      >entirely. The Celts used a fair bit of purple in their illuminations
                      >(Book of Kells, etc.). They made it from the shells of a bug that they
                      >crushed up (forget the name of the bug right now).

                      What about those purple-paged Carolingian MSS? If those are vellum, then I
                      suppose you could consider that purple-dyed leather... They certainly are
                      striking to look at!

                      Cheers,
                      Colin



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