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does not reflect any — each colour has an expression and a
character peculiar to itself, and each is enlivened as it
approaches its lightest shade by its mixture with white,
just as it is saddened and perishes as it approaches its
darkest shade by its mixture with black. As to pure
black, if it be, in the dress of the grandees of Spain, a
mark of nobility, and a symbol of pride, it is because the
austere habit of the priest has of necessity appeared a

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dignity and a privilege to that devout nation, who are
as Christians humble, but as men, haughty.

Yellow is the eldest daughter of light, and we must
not be astonished if such a nation of colourists as the
Chinese look upon it as the most beautiful of colours.
Without yellow, no spectacle can be splendid. With it
nature has tinged the flesh tints of the races of mankind
highest in her scale ; with it she has coloured the most
precious of metals, and those jpleheian cereal grasses, as
Linnaeus calls them, which contain the most necessary
articles of food — the ripe ears of wheat and rye, the seeds
of maize, even the grains of barley, and that fine straw
which, after having borne the ear, becomes an ornament,
when plaited by women it forms hats which shelter them
from the sun, and cast a golden shade over their com-

Striped with black, yellow characterises the covering
of the most formidable of animals, and the most venomous
of flies, such as the tiger, the panther, and the wasp -^
and this contrast of black and yellow is also much fancied
in countries where the passions are hot and violent. It
suits the Nubian and Arab women well; the Spanish
women especially favour it, and it harmonises with the
decided character of their black eyebrows and sparkling
eyes, which express boldness and defiance as much as

Red is a favourite colour with all the nations of the
world. As distant from yellow and white as it is from
blue and black, it occupies a central position among the
primaiy colours, and in it the evening and the morning
meet and are united. Just as it gives life to the humau

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face by making the circulation of the blood transparent,
so it animates all surfaces where it appears, and enlivei
all the harmonies in which it plays a part. " It is by-
means of red," says Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, "that
nature enhances the most brilliant of her beautiful flowers.
With it she arrays the plumage of most of the birds of
India, especially in the breeding season. At that time
there are few birds to whom she does not give some
shade of that colour. Some have their heads covered
with it, like those birds called cardmals, others have
patches of it on their breasts, others have necklets, others
hoods, and others epaulets. Some there are that pre-
serve the grey or brown ground of their feathers, but
are glazed with red, as if they had been rolled in car-
mine ; others are sprinkled with it, as if a scarlet powder
had been blown over them."

Occupying a place between the liveliness of light and
the quiet of dark colours, red has an expression of
dignity, magnificence, and pomp. There is something
imposing and terrible in the robe of a criminal judge.
In the habit of the Princes of the Church, in the uniform
of soldiers, in the dress of women, it is suggestive of
pride, bravery, and licence. It asserts a strong will, it
appeals to and provokes observation.

The expression of blue is one of purity. It is impos-
sible to attach to this colour the idea of boldness, licence,
or voluptuousness. Blue is an unobtrusive and imagina-
tive colour, which, recalling the impalpable ether and the
clearness of the calm sea, necessarily pleases the poet by
its immaterial and celestial character. It does not yet
suit, or it no longer suits, like golden and flame colour,

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the time of love. It is, moreover, of all colours, that
which ascends the highest, and descends the lowest in
the scale of chiaro-oscuro. Nothing so much resembles
white as light blue, so linen is bleached with blue, and
nothing so much resembles black as dark blue — the hha
dEnfer as dyers call it. The result is that this colour
is more susceptible than others of approaching extremes,
and thereby changing its character. It may be suitable
in its light shade for the dress of an innocent maiden,
and in its dark for romantic affections and evening
thoughts. It seems in this latter case to indicate a mind
which is beginning to withdraw itself from the realities
of life, and to incline to soUtude, mystery, and silence.

The complementary colour of blue, orange, corresponds
to other feelings. A mixture of light a:nd heat, of yellow
and red, orange plays a brilliant part in ti^e decoration of
the universe. It gives Ufe to the harmonie^of the dawn,
and mingUng with the dramatic scene of declining day, it
adds its numberless vibrations to the endless \novelty of
spectacle which the sinking sun presents. BuN(( in the
dress of women, orange can only figure sparingly^ as an
accessory, and by way of echo or consonance ; Vfirst,
because it enters into the two tints of the complexion| of
those races who are not black, and next, because there\ is
something slightly acid in orange colour, just as there is
in the fruit from which it derives its name.

The colour with which nature has tinted the bacSk-
ground of all her pictures, green, is the most suitalj^le
ground for other colours. It unites wonderfully wJell
with the yellow and blue which have produced it ; • it
heightens red, and there is no flower or ripe fruit whi ch


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it does not set ofiF to greater advantage, either by analogy
or contrast. As it tones down the briUiancy of yellow
by the quiet of blue, it is both gay and modest, bright
and tender. Green can only awaken amiable and gentle
thoughts, remembrances gracious as those of spring, and
other promises of nature : green gives repose to the
mind, as it does to the sight. It is only when combined ^
with black that green becomes sjrmbolical of sadness. It f
then characterises the plants which grow among ruins, ^
like ivy and those which are used to ornament the tomb.

But between blue and red a colour has a place which ^
possesses a striking signification of concentration, of
inflated wealth, of melancholy — I mean violet. It con-
tains the red of life, but red encroached on by blue, and
darkened. In the rites of the Christian Church, violet is
the colour adopted in times of fasting, and if the soutane
of our Bishops be distinguished by this colour, it is
because their violet is more charged with crimson than
that of the rainbow ; it inchnes to purple, and so seems
to conceal under an ashy blue the pride and passion of
red. In its real colour, as the solar spectrum presents it
to us, violet is a hue which has been brilliant and rich,
but is so no longer. The blue of the periwinkle, the
flower that thrUled the saddened heart of Rousseau, some-
times approaches violet, and it is by an infalHble verdict
of the imagination that popular language calls the dark
purple scabious " the widows flower."

It is true then that colours have in themselves not
only an optical character, but in some sort a moral one,
by reason of their close union with feeling ; setting aside
religious feeling or those national preferences which

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different peoples have given to them, as, for example, the

preference of the Arabs and Turks for green, because it

was the favourite colour of Mahomet. All is not relative,

all is not arbitrary and variable, even in what appears

to us more variable and more arbitrary than anything in

Tthe world — colour ; but in dress and ornament a colour

^has its proper expression only when it is isolated, or

/ the dominant colour, that is to say, when the colours

which accompany it are employed to add to its eloquence,

and contribute to its triumph.



Before reading what treats of the adaptation of colours
to the ornament of the human person, it is important
that the reader should remember or refer to what we
have set forth in the Grammar of the Arts of Design
concerning the law of complementary colours, black and
white, optical blending, and the vibration of colours, and
the changes that the different lights which illumine them
cause them to undergo.

We have just spoken of the secret relations of colour to
feeling. It is of its optical value, of the sensations that
it conveys, and of its relative suitableness in personal
ornament that we have now to speak.

And let me premise that this chapter is exclusively
addressed to women, for in the great show of life, all
colour in the present day is on their side. Amongst

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primitive nations who are naore natural, younger, and
more under the sway of feeling, the man is almost as
fond of colour as the woman. The savage, finding him-
self doubtless too much of one colour, seeks to embellish
himself by tattooing ; the cacique makes himself a head-
dress with feathers of brilliant tints; the Moor, the
Negro, the Arab, and the Indian deck themselves with
staring hues. But wherever civilization becomes intri-
cate, and developes, man abandons colour to woman ;
he himself becomes colourless and sombre, and in the
present day throughout Europe he is dressed in black.
Now-a-days scarcely anybody but soldiers preserve in
their dress the variety and Hveliness of colour, and while
nations proclaim their brotherhood by the similarity of
their civil garb, soldiers and their officers are still com-
pelled to avow, by their dififerent coloured uniforms, their
original purpose, as shown in their style of dress, of
slaying their fellow creatures. But women will never
renounce the means of pleasing which colour gives them,
they will never consent to lay down such a weapon.

Although the shades of hair and skin are extremely
varied, we may reduce these shades to certain principal
varieties, and say that the hair of women is black, fair,
red, chestnut or ash-coloured. To these colours of hair
correspond ordinarily certain varieties of complexion. It
is rare that black hair goes with a white skin, unless the
hair itself is softened down by the same cause that has
whitened the skin, as we may remark in the EngUsh and
Irish, whose freshness is preserved by the dampness and
fogs of their island, and in the women of Antwerp, in
whom the crossing of the Spanish and Flemish races has

F 2

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produced the mixture of a clear complexion with the liair
of the South. Both one and the other have hair and eyes
of a brilliant but not dense black, which does not
resemble the hair of the Italians or Spaniards. The real
brunette has a dull and warm complexion, ranging from
yellow to oUve, and the pupil of the eye, like a carbuncle,
stands out on a brilliantly white membrane. Nature
is always in harmony with herself. The blonde beauty
— she is in life what Rubens has represented her in
his pictures, her flesh rosy, delicate and transparent,
inclines to fairness. At the H6tel Rambouillet, fair
women were called lionnes. Chestnut hair matches
wonderfully with the colour of the complexion most .
common in Europe ; its dulled and faint red is in
perfect harmony with that yellow mingled with half
tones of blue grey and rose-colour, which is the usual
tint of the skin. Red and sandy hair agree with a
white skin and a dazzling complexion, and the eyes of
ruddy-complexioned people are of a colour bordering on

If fair hair be ash-coloured, as if it were covered with
a slight layer of dust, that fine powder appears also to
be sprinkled over the flesh, and to soften the eyes and
subdue the brilliancy of the skin. So each temperament
has its own harmony ready to hand, or at least ready
prepared, and nothing remains for the artist but to render
this harmony softer or more lively, to bring out that
which is undecided, to set off what is insipid, to temper
what is harsh, to bring into relief what may please, by
subduing what would fail to give pleasure.

These varieties of complexion and hair require no

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doubt varieties of colour; nevertheless there are some
colours which go well with all physiognomies, such as
black, light grey, and pearl grey, which, correctly
speaking, are non-colours, and old oak, deep havane,
and mushroom brown, because they are warm in the
shade, and cold in the light.

I say black, but what black ? To set off to advantage
the freshness of a blonde, or the fairness of a red-haired
woman, it is a soft and deep black that is wanted, the
black of velvet. For a brunette, black would be
frightfully melancholy, in fact it would be mourning, if it
were dull and unenlivened by something glossy, such as
Lyons satin, or silk, or even by faille^ or softened like
the black of velvet by rich reflexions. * Ovid, in his
Art of Love^ says, " Black suits the fair : it became
Briseis, she was dressed in black when she was carried
oflF. White suits the dark: it added to thy charms^
Andromeda, when, clothed in white, thou didst traverse
the Isle of Seriphos.'^ The poet is right : if black gives
fairness to a brunette by contrast, white produces the
same eflfect by throwing out a light which irradiates all
that comes within its range. Light grey, which is only
a softened white, produces a similar effect, provided it has
a lustrous surface, and throws out reflections.

According to general opinion, which we must take into
consideration, even in our country (France), where
scarcely any feeling for colour exists, yellow and red suit
brunettes, and blue suits blondes. Ordinarily speaking
this is true, but it is subject to numerous exceptions in
practice, for there are many tints in the complexions both
of brunettes and blondes, and it is precisely the art that

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now occupies our attention, which deals with delicate
admixtures and shades of colour.

Knowing the law of the simultaneous contrast and
optical blending of colours, the effect of white and black
in a show of colours, the property that red possesses of
surrounding itself with a halo of green, yellow with a
halo of violet, and blue with a halo of orange, and vice
versfi., that is to say, the property which each colour
possesses of projecting its complementary colour on the
surrounding space — ^being cognizant of these laws, and
knowing what light will illuminate his work, whether sun
or gas, morning or evening, a south or a north light, the
artist may at his pleasure strengthen or soften, bring into
prominence or subdue the natural colouring of the
person he wishes to adorn, by the introduction of foreign
colours into his decoration.

It is for him to judge under what circumstances he
shall use this or that artifice. Would he be wise to
waste his pains in hiding a fault that nothing can hide ?
Should he try, for example, to soften down the harshness
of a swarthy complexion ? No, that which cannot be con-
cealed it is best frankly to acknowledge. In such a case
then he will employ for a brunette brilliant yellows and
splendid reds. A jonquil-coloured ribbon, a scarlet
camellia in the black tresses, a poppy-coloured bodice,
partially softened by Chantilly lace, will give a dashing
character to the figure so decorated, and instead of
diminishing its effect, will add to it new force. Amongst
the soft beauties of the North, the sallow-complexioned
Germans, the English with their dazzhng and satin-like
skin, the French whose complexion is generally undecided

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in colour, whose hair is between the two extremes, and
whose grace is all one of delicate shades — it is always a
fine offence of colour, the appearance of one of those
exotic and harsh beauties, or of an Andalusian with an
Arab skin, a piercing eye, and stubborn hair.

In connexion with this subject, I remember that one
of our most learned colourists, Eugene Delacroix, was
visited, when at the point of death, by a woman, an artist,
who was much attached to him, and who came to give
him a last clasp of the hand. Just as she was entering
the room, Delacroix, by an involuntary and instinctive
movement, seized a red China scarf, and wound it hastily
round his neck, as a foil to the livid, almost corpse-like
pallor of his face, the colour of which, even in health, was
almost that of a gipsy. The artist had survived the man.

But if we have to deal with a delicate brunette with
slightly jaded features, or a brunette whose skin is com-
paratively fair, and eyes of. a velvety black, we must no
longer make use of striking and decided colours. Here,
on the "contrary, soft colours should be employed, espe-
cially pale blue, because that is the shade which ap-
proaches nearest to white without having its rawness.
We shall thus succeed in giving faii-ness to the one, and
we shall subdue in the other her slight pallor, and the
evanescent change in her- features, by associating with
them the faintest possible colour.

It is the same with blondes. I mean that the common
theory must often give way in this sense, that we must
treat gracefiilness sometimes by contrasts, and sometimes
by similars. No doubt, as a general rule, the softness of
fair women, which may become insipidity, calls for

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certain contrasts and enhancements^ If the hair of a
blonde be golden or red, it ought without doubt to be
accompanied by its complementary colour : a dark violet
velvet bonnet, a tuft of violets in the hau*, a deep lilac
dress will go with it marvellously well. There is
another colour which suits all shades of red hair — green
of a medium intensity. If the complexion of the blonde
be delicate and fresh, an orange, Turkey (caroubter)^ or
ruby red will set off the freshness and delicacy, partly by
similarity, partly by contrast Eed, then, is not ex-
clusively the rouge of brunettes ('* le fard des brunes ")^
to use the common expression ; it plays a part also in
the dress of fair beauties. We may say the same of
yellow, which we have seen look bewitching on some
blondes. But in this case the yellow ought to match in
hue the lightest shade of the hair, and it must be
^heightened by a colour that contrasts well with it.

Let us now try to find out what colours will match
chestnut or ash-coloured hair, and the complexions that
correspond with them. Women who are placed, so ta
speak, in the half shades of colour, may wear either what
suits brunettes or blondes, provided the tones of their
dress and ornaments be subdued in proportion to the
degree of warmth in their complexion. Pure yellow or
deep red would ill suit chestnut hair, even if dark ; but
half tints, such as pale yellow, maize, deep yellow, tur-
quoise blue, and hazy blue, would harmonise well with
the neutral character of these natural colours. Lisrht
chestnut admits of the colours suitable to fair hair, but
with a little less decidedness in the tint As to tliose
who have ash-coloured hair, and skin in keeping with it>

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eyes blue as the sea or sea green, their delicate and
extreme softness calls for half- warm tints, with suggestions
of neutral grey or slashings of pale blue. Black velvet
gives them fairness without detracting from the distinc-
tion and delicacy which are the characteristics of their
complexion, and pearls form in their ornaments a happy
consonance, provided their cold colour is relieved by one
that is decided, tastefully used and concentrated within a
small space, such as a pohshed but uncut garnet, a ruby,
or a trinket of gold.

But this chapter on colours is not yet exhausted. We
shall have to return to the subject by-and-by.



The art of the hairdresser is one that requires much
taste and refinement, and M. Lefebvre was right when
he said in a speech he delivered in Paris, in 1778;

*' Hair-dressing is an art To give becoming forms

to those long filaments which Nature seems to have in-
tended for a veil rather than an ornament ; to bestow on
those forms a consistency of which the material com-
posing them does not appear susceptible ; to give to
luxuriance a regularity which may banish disorder, and
to supplement scantiness with an abundance which may
deceive the most searching glance ; to combine the
accessories with the groundwork which they are to soften
down or relieve ; to give stay to a delicate face by airy

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tresses, and to match a majestic one with wavy tufts ; to
soften the harshness of features or eyes by a contrast,
and sometimes by a well considered harmony ; to work
all these wonders with no other means than a comb and
Bome powders of different colours — all this is beyond
doubt the essential characteristic of an art

"The hairdresser, by the look of a face, must divine
at a glance the sort of ornament that will suit it. A
woman, while appearing to have her hair dressed like
other women, must yet have it specially adapted to her
own style of face; consequently, in each toilette, the
artist repeats the most difficult of Nature's wonders, that
of being in his productions always alike, yet al\^ays

All this is true, and Diderot himself, be it said with
respect, could not have expressed it better. The hair is
of so much importance to the face, that the gracefulness
of a woman's head, and the likeness of a man's portrait,
depend in a great measure upon its arrangement. Let us
begin with man, whose mode of dressing the hair is by
far the most simple.



Although, historically, the arrangement of man's hair
may have given rise to different interpretations, and
nations may have attached different meanings to it, we
may determine by our feelings the different shades of
character indicated by the manner of cutting and wearing
the hair by men.

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Amongst our barbarous ancestors, long Lair was a
mark of honour, a token of freedom, and so Julius Caesar
understood it when he cropped the hair of the vanquished
Gauls, as though to inflict upon them the ignominious
stigma of the Roman scissors. In fact, there is some-
thing in hair allowed to grow freely and to float in the


wind that suggests the simplicity and independence of
primitive peoples, and gives them a resemblance to
horses with flowing mane and tail. But voluntary
cutting of the hair is in no sense humiliating, and it is
undeniable that it imparts an air of austerity, neatness,
and adherence to rules, and, being the reverse of what is
customary among women, it has on that account alone a
masculine character. How could we imagine Brutus

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other than with short and thick hair, such as he is repre-
sented in the antique ? The shaven head heightens the
expression of formal zeal in the aspect of the Quaker, and
of daring in the appearance of our Zouaves ; it mark&
also the boldness of the corsair, who is determined
neither to be captured or rescued by liis hair.

Besides, short hair suits equally well a beard or a
shaven chin. When Francis L, wishing to hide a scar,
or perhaps to correct the excessive breadth of his face,
allowed his beard to grow, he felt the necessity of cutting
his hair short, and by covering it with a black velvet cap
ornamented with a feathex% he succeeded in giving to the
head a certain grace, at least in the profile, as Titian ha»
painted him. It is then more becoming to wear the hair
short with a beard, so as to give prominence to the upper
part of the head, to the marking of the eyes and eye-
brows, to the development of the forehead, and also to
show the shape of the skull, if it is not unsightly or out

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Online LibraryCharles BlancArt in ornament and dress → online text (page 5 of 17)