The Colours of the Past in Victorian England

by Charlotte Ribeyrol (Volume editor)
Edited Collection XIV, 310 Pages


The experience of colour underwent a significant change in the second half of the nineteenth century, as new coal tar-based synthetic dyes were devised for the expanding textile industry. These new, artificial colours were often despised in artistic circles who favoured ancient and more authentic forms of polychromy, whether antique, medieval, Renaissance or Japanese. However faded, ancient hues were embraced as rich, chromatic alternatives to the bleakness of industrial modernity, fostering fantasized recreations of an idealized past.
The interdisciplinary essays in this collection focus on the complex reception of the colours of the past in the works of major Victorian writers and artists. Drawing on close analyses of artworks and literary texts, the contributors to this volume explore the multiple facets of the chromatic nostalgia of the Victorians, as well as the contrast between ancient colouring practices and the new sciences and techniques of colour.


XIV, 310
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (June)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. XIV, 310 pp., 34 coloured ill.

Biographical notes

Charlotte Ribeyrol (Volume editor)

Charlotte Ribeyrol is Associate Professor at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, a Marie Curie Fellow at the University of Oxford (2016–2018) and a member of the Institut Universitaire de France since 2015. Her main field of research is the influence of Ancient Greece on Victorian painting and literature, particularly in the works of A.C. Swinburne, J.A. Symonds and Walter Pater. Thanks to her interdisciplinary collaboration with chemists from the POLYRE programme (supported by Sorbonne Universities), she is now exploring the importance of the materiality of colour in the works of major Victorian writers and artists, notably William Morris.


Title: The Colours of the Past in Victorian England