Persian Yellow
Cotton Blue
Bokhara Red
Bokhara Blue
Pale Sung Cream
Deep Sung Cream
Sung Blue
Sung Green
Imperial Chinese Yellow
Sung Grey
Sung Grey Mauve
Mazarine Blue
Tang Green
Tang Yellow

historical colours

Oriental colours

A good many authorities maintain that the Persians were the greatest decorative artists of any time, and that the Chinese come very close to them. their reputation depends largely on the wonderful colours they used. Our knowledge of these colours was first derived from the letters and diaries of French catholic missionaries in the 15th and 16th centuries. Hence French terms are used largely in naming these colours, such as Claire de Lune, Rouge de Fer, and Celadon.

One of the best known is the Nankin Blue, of blue and white chinese porcelain; this was made from a salt of cobalt, and when highly purified gave a brilliant deep blue, such as seen in fine specimens of Kangshi. In less purified specimens the blue tends to a greyish colour.

Powder Blue was obtained by blowing cobalt in powder form onto the surface; glaze applied over it gave the surface a mottled appearance. It was largely used as background for scroll designs in gold. Mazarine blue, somewhat similar to Nankin, was also used for the same purpose. A somewhat deeper but more brilliant blue colour called Mohammedan Blue was a popular colour in early times, especiallly in Persia.

Turquoise too was a favourite colour for Persian pottery. it was somewhat softer and paler than the chinese variety, used in some brilliant Ming specimens.

Greens were much loved by the orientals, Apple Green especially. It was used in light colour, particularily on Persian Pottery; a darker shade being more common in China. A bluer and darker green was known as Cucumber Green. A brilliant Emerald Green is also seen on many pieces of of Famille Vert Chinese ware.

Yellow was the colour of the Imperial family in China, it was of a light shade and the Chinese described it as the colour of dried bones. Tang Yellows were a deeper and somewhat browner shade due to iron salts in the glaze.

Pink, Rose, Reds and Crimson were much used in Persian carpets and embroideries. A red known as Iron Red (Rouge de Fer) was a favourite in Chinese porcelain, and a Carmine pink was the prevailing colour in Famille Rose china. Another favourite was Aubergine; it varied from definitely pink shade, light in colour, to a purplish pink and a brownish purple. It is present in many fine Ming specimens. A deep red, Sang de Bouef, was also prepared from salts of copper.

Of all the Chinese tints suitable for modern decoration of walls and woodwork it is probable that the delicate shades of the early Sung and Ming procelain are going to be vogue. some of these have only recently come to our notice, such as the delicate transparent bluish greys of the Fenching Chinese ware, dating back to about 1000 AD. Also the delicate blues and grey-blues of the Chun wares, the wonderful Celadons, the pale translucent green, the light grey-green, and the somewhat opaque blue-green of Lung Chuan, and lastly but by no means least, the fine buff shades, biscuit colour and cream white of early Sung Porcelain.

Cotton blue, Turkey red, Bokhara Blue, Bokhara Red, etc. are found in the Turkish, Indian and Persian rugs. The latter especially will be found useful for new ideas for colours of a decorative type.


What DOT did with historical colour on the designerpaint web site



Pale Nanking
Deep Nanking Blue
Chinese Turquoise
Persian Turquoise
Pale Powder Blue
Deep Powder Blue
Claire de Lune
Pale Apple Green
Deep Apple Green
Rouge de Fer
Pale Celadon Green
Mid Celadon Green
Deep Celadon Green
Fenching Blue
Sang de Bouef