The international conference “Colour in the 17th and 18th Centuries: Connexions between Science, Arts and Technology” convenes this weekend at TU Berlin. The expansive interdisciplinary programme includes papers by network participants Dr Karin Leonhard and Dr Sachiko Kusukawa. All abstracts and a list of panels are now available here.
Dr Kusukawa’s talk, “The Colour Chart of Richard Waller, FRS, 1686”, follows her previous work on Waller’s use of visual resources at the early Royal Society and focuses on a fold-out table published in 1686 in the Philosophical Transactions to illustrate the article, “A Catalogue of Simple and Mixt Colours, with a Specimen of Each Colour Prefixt to Its Proper Name” (16: 24-32). The catalogue provides a case study of the early Royal Society’s broader concerns with the materiality and chemical properties of colour. Participants in last week’s “Curiously Drawn” conference at the Royal Society will recall Prof. Matthew Hunter’s discussion of Waller’s work in his talk on the chemical interests of Sir Joshua Reynolds and other Fellows.
In his catalogue, Waller identifies colours with terms drawn from Latin, Greek, English, and French. He employs a matrix design to illustrate swatches of 21 “simple” colours alongside examples of mixed pigments that he claims result from various combinations and weights of “simples”.
Tantalizingly, two copies of the 1686 Philosophical Transactions in the collections of the Cambridge University Library and the Trinity College Library, respectively, have hand-coloured swatches on the fold-out. Embodied in these extant illuminations are recipes likely used at the early Royal Society in the preparation of pigments for theoretical and artistic pursuits.
Working from the material evidence that these painted examples provide, Dr Kusukawa and Dr Paola Ricciardi (Research Associate, Dept. of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Fitzwilliam Museum) are collaborating to bring the analytical methods of conservation science to bear on an excavation of the context of Waller’s chart. Both researchers seek to assess to what extent the colours on the fold-out were actually produced by the pigments Waller suggests and, so too, whether the “mixed” colours on the illustration are indeed combinations of those he terms “simple”, or whether there are conspicuous contaminations. Drawing from methods used in the analysis of binders and pigments in more traditional illuminated manuscripts, Ricciardi can use the non-destructive technique of Fiber Optics Reflectance Spectroscopy (FORS) to collect spectra from a single spot of each painted swatch on Waller’s chart. The distribution of wavelengths recorded can then be compared to known spectral features of pigments, leading to an identification.
In April, the availability of a FieldSpec4 spectroradiometer (lent by ASD Inc., Boulder CO via the Goetz Instrument Support Program) at the Fitzwilliam Museum enabled Dr Ricciardi and her colleague Anuradha Pallipurath (PhD Student, Dept. of Chemistry, University of Cambridge), pictured above, to complete an FORS pigment analysis on the Trinity College Library copy of the Philosophical Transactions (310.b.6A.8). Subsequent analysis of the Cambridge University Library copy of the journal — and, with it, the opportunity for a comparative assessment of the illumination on both tables — is forthcoming, pending the further availability or acquisition of a spectroradiometer.
Dr Paola Ricciardi (Research Associate, Dept. of Manuscripts and Printed Books, Fitzwilliam Museum) and Anuradha Pallipurath (PhD Student, Dept. of Chemistry, University of Cambridge) use the FieldSpec4 spectroradiometer (lent by ASD Inc., Boulder CO via the Goetz Instrument Support Program) for pigment analysis of Waller’s 17th-century colour chart (Trinity College 310.b.6A.8, Phil. Trans. R. Soc. Lond. 16 (1686), Trinity College Library).