It’s great to have Napoleonic Blue back in my Chalk Paint® colour range here in Europe; and for all my customers around the world who've been familiar with it for years, here’s a timely reminder of just what a deep, rich and warm blue it really is.
My inspiration isn’t the diminutive Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte himself, but the classic French Empire style he put his emperor’s seal to. It’s like saying ‘Victorian’ to describe an era rather than Queen Victoria herself, and to that extent Napoleonic Blue represents a ‘regimented’ style: it’s dark, it’s rich, it’s a bit ‘masculine’, I suppose. The French Empire style under Napoleon borrowed wholesale from classical Greece and Rome in a grand style with military motifs and masculine colours (and don’t forget Napoleon had conquered Egypt, which was yet another classical influence with its vibrant azure blues, rich greens, red ochre and acid yellows).
Pigments – something borrowed, something blue
Some of my stockists have likened Napoleonic Blue to the colour of freshly picked blueberries, and even the perfect blue for creating the Union Jack flag (though I’m not sure what the French would think of this!). I see it as a homage to ‘ultramarine blue’, which was extracted from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli – the incredibly bright blue pigment that was reputedly more expensive than gold in medieval times and the forerunner of all artists’ blues. It was used by some Medieval and Renaissance artists strictly to paint Mary and Jesus’ robes.
The history of colour in Art (which I studied) is a bit of a detective story and is fascinating in itself – but it boils down to the discovery of pigments. These are very fine powders sourced from the earth, from plants (and from dyes and synthetic materials). They’re a bit like spices with varying strengths and properties – some are opaque, some are like grains, some mix with oil, while others work better with water. There are actually no blue pigments you can find straight from the earth, so it’s always been a complicated and expensive process to get that 'true' blue (as with lapis lazuli).
Something versatile, something new
The great thing about Napoleonic Blue is that because it’s so rich and warm and strong and pure, I can see it being used in so many different ways. As a 'regal' stand alone, or with whites for example as you get all these pale warm blues. If you add dark wax it makes it silkier, deeper and even more gorgeous. Here are some neat ideas (below) found online:
The colour is absolutely tailor-made for neoclassical interiors but also works very well with the Swedish style. It’s a winning combination (well, it was for Napoleon till he met his Waterloo).
And although it refers back to the past it also has a more modern feel 1960’s pop art feel to it too – that bright blue used with orange or the bright-blue-with-bright-green mix so it looks fantastic with or over Barcelona Orange (which also gives it a truer navy blue) as well as with Antibes Green (see below).
Just looking at my Chalk Paint® colour card, you can see the range of blues goes from violet and lavender blues to grey blues, navy blues and the greenish hues of turquoise. Aubusson Blue for example, is from Prussian Blue, a cold, greeny blue, whereas Napoleonic Blue is a warm blue with the faintest hint of red (so it makes for a great purple – a favourite colour of Napoleon’s).
To get a warm blue you need an undertone of red and more red will give you a good purple especially with a bit of white added. When combined with Old White or Paris Grey, Napoleonic Blue can be used to create a really mellow farmhouse grey blue. When you start mixing my blues with other hues in the colour wheel, you’ll really notice just how vast the blue colour range is.
I created my paint, Chalk Paint®, from the idea of the artist using a palette to mix colours rather than robotically selecting from a bewildering kaleidoscopic chart – so go on, use Napoleonic Blue and be an artist!
P.S. I would like to thank my stockists and others for some of the ideas shown here via Pinterest and blogs which I acknowledge below. Apologies if I have omitted anyone! Search #Napoleonic on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more inspiration.
Finding Silver Pennies for the ‘grain sack dresser’