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Between Craft Routines and Academic Rules: Natural Dyestuffs and the “Art” of Dyeing in the Eighteenth Century

Agusí Nieto-Galan

in Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print April 2010 | ISBN: 9780226439686
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226439709 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226439709.003.0012
Between Craft Routines and Academic Rules: Natural Dyestuffs and the “Art” of Dyeing in the Eighteenth Century

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During the eighteenth century, natural dyestuffs derived mainly from animal and vegetable sources were applied to a wide range of surfaces. Dyeing processes required materials such as gums, astringents, acids, alkalis, bleaching liquors, and metallic salts (mordants). The sources of colors, between indigenous dyes and exotic plants from the colonies, were often controversial. This article examines the manufacture and quality control of natural dyestuffs in the Manufacture royale des Gobelins in France to highlight a complex system of material production, social cooperation, and expertise in the eighteenth century. This system included the Gobelins laboratory, workshops of the manufactory (manufacture), and a dyeing school which taught students about dyestuffs and methods of bleaching. The quality tests for dyestuffs played a key role in the rationalization of the art of dyeing. This article shows how the Gobelins laboratory acted as a critical intermediate space between academia and the workshop.

Keywords: natural dyestuffs; France; dyeing; quality control; Manufacture royale des Gobelins; material production; social cooperation; expertise; academia

Chapter.  14167 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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