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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Puce, fleas and Marie-Antoinette

Puce. It's a colour. Yes but what colour?

Puce is a colour I have found a tad confusing over the years. And it seems I'm not the only one.

I first stumbled on the colour puce in a Georgette Heyer novel. The context never made it sound like a colour anyone with pretentions to fashion would countenance. We would list any "puce sightings or references" we stumbled across since it is not a colour many people refer to. I still have a little chuckle whenever I hear or read of "puce" in everyday life. And in fact I have always thought of puce as a pinky purple brown colour.

In French, puce literally means "flea", fleas generally being dark reddish-brown or dark purplish-brown.

Apparently the first recorded use of puce as a color name was in the 14th century, in the French language but it certainly seems to have became more common after the late 1780s, when King Louis is widely regarded to have coined the term to describe the colour of one of his wife's dresses.

I found not only an article on puce but also with a painting of Marie-Antoinette in what I can only assume is a puce coloured dress with another photo of a fabric and lace fragment of one of her dresses in a light fawn colour embroidered with jasmine. The painting is almost identical to another earlier painting of her in a blue dress. Check it out at - Colourwatch: Pondering puce.

So what colour is puce? Well I think it's rather in the eye of the beholder!

I tried to post this in puce but it wasn't easily readable! 

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