When discussing about colours we always must have in mind:
- That we cannot remember colours, so we have to describe them, we have to use synonyms or analogies (or nowadays colour-codes like RAL, Pantone, RGB, CMYK). The words chosen in the past are quite a really good hint: brick-red, jonquille-yellow, caput mortum, antwerpen-blue... Some libraries supply colour-guides or colour-atlas with numbered samples and comparatative lists of names used in the past. This is a rare but very good source, probably the second best after the own eye-whitness of real textiles or sample-books in museums.
- In the second half of the 18th century some new colours appeared, following fashion-trends: bleu-mourant, pale green, pale pink, linzer-yellow - and of course they were chosen for distinguishing between the numerous regiments. Here fashion met practical military sense (this led to some of the most unusual but highly attractive designed colour-combinations).
- Colouring varies because of the process, the result is the better the earlier in the process the colouring is done. Wool can be coloured as wool, as spinned reels and as woven textile, quality differs in respect to equality of results.
- It was always a question of price, officers ordered much better textiles than privates because they could afford it. For the mass of soldiers in the 18th century much more cheaper quality textiles were brought. Regiment chief could save a lot of money! On the other hand, regiments tried to fit really good uniforms to their musicians, ensigns, NCOs....
- Colours vary on different basic-materials: wool, linen, silk, cotton, and leather accept the colours in different ways. This results in differing appearance!
- Unbleeched textiles (the natural tone) may change its colour after washing and exposure in sunlight. So there must have been differences in the appearance of a regiment with brand new uniforms in comparison to regiments wearing old uniforms in continuous service. This should be taken into account, especially with Austrian or French uniforms.
- Some colour-groups in our culture are more common than others: we have only one word for the colours around orange but dozens of words describing all kinds of red and blue-tones. This may show how much cultural care was kept on this things in the past.
- Contemporary dyeing processes did not fix colours very firmly and uniform colours tended to fade rather quickly.
Here is a first attempt to create a standardized colour chart.
|Alizarin Crimson (madder red/Garance red/garanza)||227||38||54||Wikipedia|
|Dark Red||105||39||41||Austrian uniform guide, 1905|
|Deep Indigo blue||0||51||102||Wikipedia (midnight blue)|
|English red||212||61||26||La boite a couleurs|
|Firebrick||178||34||34||La boite a couleurs|
|Full Green||103||46||103||http://www.tx4.us/nbs/nbs-g.htm, Morier's painting of a grenadier of the 11th regiment, 1750|
|Golden yellow/ "Kaisergelb"||255||215||0||Wikipedia and Austrian Uniform guide, 1905|
|Gosling Green||138||154||91||http://www.tx4.us/nbs/nbs-p.htm, painting of a Grenadier of the 5th regiment of foot, 1750|
|Lobster Red||250||93||76||Austrian uniform guide, 1905|
|Medium Blue||35||69||202||Sample of the Swedish lifeguard uniform|
|philamot yellow||190||101||22||http://www.tx4.us/nbs/nbs-p.htm, Morier's painting of a grenadier of the 13th regiment, 1750|
|Pike Gray/ Hechtgrau||120||141||144||Austrian Uniform guide, 1905|
|Ponceau Red/Poppy Red||198||8||0||pourpre.com|
|Regimental/ Persian Indigo (for Navies)||15||18||122||Wikipedia|
|Rifle Green/Bottle Green/Deep Green?||69||103||80||Wiktionary|
|Rose madder/brick red #1||227||54||56||La boite a couleurs|
|Russian green?||0||71||31||Joachim Schultz|
|Sulfur yellow||247||231||13||Austrian Uniform guide, 1905|
|Ventre de Biche||233||201||177||purpre.com|
|Yellow Green||154||205||50||Purpre.com (via La boite a couleurs)|
- Philemot yellow and Feuille Morte may in fact be one in the same color, or have similar descriptive meanings (i.e. describing the color od dead leaves). If so, the different interpretations of this color may be related to the uneven dying of the period, a difference in shade between continental European and British definitions, or an error in description of one of the colors--likely the "Feuille Morte", as the "Philemot Yellow" color used here matches a painting illustrating a member of the 13th regiment, who were described as having philemot yellow facings.
- Some confusion exists regarding the nature of Bottle, Rifle, and Deep green: They may be one in the same, or three similar shades of green.
- Strangely, Contemporary depictions of regiments faced in "grass green" (e.g., 36th regiment of foot), reveal color much darker than expected for the term. This is supported by the 1905 Austrian Uniform guide, which also defines the color as a shade of dark green.
- according to the research of Kochan and Phillips, Popinjay Green and Gosling Green may have been referring to the same color.
Austrian Uniform guide, http://www.mlorenz.at/Bewaffnete_Macht/Uniformen.htm
David Morier, 1751, Paintings of Various soldiers for the Duke of Cumberland, http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/search?search=morier
Kochan and Phillips, 2013, http://www.historicaltextiles.com/
Ibrahim90 for the initial version of this article and Joachim Schulz for the initial version of the introduction.