Dr Kay-William started her talk by showing us an image of 1669 which showed the various stages of the dyeing process – the vat, a brick vessel where hanks of wool on a pole could be submerged and a plunge pool, all very similar to what we use in hand dyeing today. She said that mordants which assist in the fixing process of dyeing had been found in fragments of textiles found in the Indus valley dating back thousands of years.
To view an image of the Coptic warrior which is in the Art Institute of Chicago click on this link: https://www.artic.edu/artworks/99602/fragment-hanging
Dr Kay-Williams then went on to talk about individual colours starting with purple and explained that it was originally found from the gland in the mollusc from within a shell. There are two purples, red and blue purple and Alexander the Great took bolts of cloth as spoils of war. In Rome it was only the Emperor and a few senators who were allowed to wear purple and we were shown a mosaic image of his wife Theodora Ravenna in a purple cloak.
To see the mosaic of Theodora click on this link:
The portrait of the Young Flemish man in 1540 shows all garments in red and a shirt of blackwork – Hampton Court.
Henry VIII in a fine red suit heavily encrusted with jewels
The portrait of Cosimo de Medici by Jacopo Pontormo in 1520 Florence.
Click on this link to see the blue Wilton Diptych:
The European dye for yellow was weld whereas further afield saffron, gathered from the stigma of the saffron crocus, was used. Dr Kay-Williams explained that the Chinese had found a very powerful yellow colour which did not fade and therefore ancient examples of textiles have kept their vibrant colours. Scholars have tried to find out what they used without success.
Click on this link to see the Arnolfini portrait:
The poor man’s black usually came from black sheep where as rich black was achieved by overdyeing as can be seen in Rembrandt’s painting.
Click on this link to see Queen Elizabeth:
Her final image was of the portrait of Madame Moitessier by Ingres. She has become the living advert for the silk industry of Lyons to be seen in the National Gallery.
Click here to see the image of Madame Moitessier:
Report by Ros