Celebration – combining colours

Although Caterina provided much of the material I’d be using for the “Celebration” costume, I wanted to take a look at colour combinations that were depicted in paintings and portraits from the age to see if there were colour combinations that I could use to inspire my choices of guards, trim, etc.

Direct link from Pinterest – click for original

The first painting I’ll look at is Andrea del Sarto’s Birth of the Virgin (1514).

There are a number of women in this painting, though I’ll be guessing at the colours based on the computer representation, and on the garments based on my best guess.

I’ll list the women from left to right as best as I’m able.

Gown colour Undergown/skirt Sleeves Sleeve style Trim/guards
Emerald Green Unseen unknown unknown unknown
Light Plum Emerald Green Over sleeve – light plum, undersleeve – terra cotta Narrow undersleeve, wide, short (or pushed up) over sleeve unknown
Golden rod yellow Unseen Terra cotta wide sleeves, narrow at wrist Wedgewood blue
Coral red/orange, lined with gold/light brown Dark plum trimmed with gold (?) Coral red/orange, lined with gold/light brown Pointed Black or brown
Gold Moss green trimmed in dark red gold Very wide throughout Dark wine
Red Unseen Emerald green narrow Unknown
Pink Unseen None n/a Gold

See a close up of these figures here.

From this – it appears that there is little pattern between the colour combining within an entire outfit, but rather there is some pattern between what a gown or underskirt is trimmed with – complementary colours.

Direct link from Design Was Here – click for original

The green skirt is trimmed with it’s complement – red. The violet skirt is trimmed with it’s complement – yellow. The gold (yellow-orange) dress should be trimmed with it’s complement – blue violet, but instead is trimmed with more of a red-violet… slightly different than complementary, but close.

Direct link from Pinterest – click to visit

The next image is The Preaching Of Saint John The Baptist by Francesco Ubertini Bacchiacca II (1520). In the cropped image to the left, the figure in the orange or red dress on the left has lifted the skirts of her gown to show off a dark wine-coloured skirt with golden or copper lacey-looking trim on the hem. The figure in the yellow also has green guards on her gown skirt.

The full image (found here) has more women in it as well, and I’ll add another table with the most visible female figures only.


Gown colour Undergown/skirt Sleeves Sleeve style Trim/guards
Emerald green  Unseen  Oversleeve – yellow, Undersleeve – medium blue  Narrow undersleeve, full oversleeve either short or pushed up  None visible
 Orange/Coral/Red  Purple with gold trim  Orange/Coral/Red  Pointed  Red or brown
 Yellow  Unseen  Deep blue  Full, narrow at wrist  Green

Here the colour combinations on single garments don’t follow the same pattern… yellow with green, coral with red/brown… not complementary.

However.. Yellow + blue = green, Yellow + blue = green (part two), and orange + purple = close to brown… I don’t know if this is intentional, but it almost looks like the elements of each outfit is intended to add up to the next colour…  coincidence? Artist’s prerogative?

Direct link from Pinterest

Direct link from Pinterest – Artist: Raphael Start Date: c.1505 Completion Date:1506

Next up – one of the two portraits that Caterina asked us to use to reference the style of costume she had in mind for us.  Here again I’m seeing complementary colours within the single garment – a green dress with red trim.

The sleeves are also red (a different shade of red though) in this one, which continues the complementary colour scheme.

Direct link from Pinterest

Direct link from Pinterest – Raphael, Portrait of Maddalena Dondi. c.1506

The second portrait – an orange gown with blue trim – again a complementary colour scheme within the same garment.

The blue sleeves here (again, a different shade of blue  though) continue the complementary colour scheme for the outfit.

Two more portraits that I found on my own 1505 Raphael Sanzio’s Portrait of a Young Woman, shows a green dress with red trim (and brown sleeves), while Andrea del Sarto’s Portrait of the Artist’s Wife, 1513-1514 is red with green trim (and yellow sleeves) – two more complementary colour schemes within the same garment.

Neither of these examples give further support to the item colour + item colour = third item colour however.


I think that these examples support that within a single garment, trim is supported by paintings and portraits to frequently (although not exclusively) use a complementary colour scheme. However, within an outfit, there does not appear to be a colour scheme pattern supported by visual evidence.

Since the fabrics for this costume given to me by Caterina are green, green/tan, and teal, I’ll be looking for red, and red-orange fabrics to trim the garments with.


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