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The Origins of Broken Colours

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This study examines the origins and understanding of the concept of 'broken colours' in the seventeenth century. The phrase relates to mixtures of colours, often to those resulting in a reduced chromatic value, but included more kinds of colour mixtures when used by early modern writers. It appeared in the art literature of England, the Low Countries, Germany and France in short sequence, and seems to have been directly associated with an ancient expression for colour mixtures, 'corrupted colours'. The interpretation of ancient mentions of 'corrupted colours' by the scholar Franciscus Junius, published in Latin, English and Dutch, are investigated together with discussions of 'broken colours' by Edward Norgate in England, Samuel van Hoogstraten in Holland, Joachim von Sandrart in Germany and Charles Alphonse Dufresnoy, Roger de Piles and the members of the Académie Royale in France.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Kunstgeschichtliches Institut

Publication date: December 1, 2016

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  • The JWCI is intended as an interdisciplinary forum for scholars specialising in art history, the history of ideas, and cultural history. It publishes articles based on new research, normally from primary sources. Topics include the arts in their various forms, religion, philosophy, science, literature and magic, as well as intellectual, political and social life, from Antiquity to the dawn of the contemporary era. Usually the subjects discussed either centre on or have some connection with Western, typically European cultures; therefore, too, the JWCI provides a home for research into the many interconnections between those cultures and others which have flourished beyond European borders - particularly, but by no means limited to, the cultures and learning of the Near East.

    Founded in 1937 as one of the first publishing projects of the Warburg Institute following its arrival in London, the Journal of the Warburg Institute became the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes two years later and has flourished as a collaborative enterprise since that time. Still produced in-house at the Warburg, the JWCI relies on Editorial and Advisory Board members drawn from both the Warburg Institute and the Courtauld Institute of Art, and on our two institutions' extensive scholarly libraries, research facilities and international links and networks.

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