ColorTherapy: A Renaissance Color Palette at the Gramercy

ColorTherapy: A Renaissance Color Palette at the Gramercy

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Maxwell Ryan
Aug 5, 2008

Mark is off for August, so we're re-running some of his top picks. Enjoy!


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Name: Renaissance Color Palette

The ColorTherapist went to The Gramercy Park Hotel this week. This landmark hotel recently reopened to great acclaim, and artist Julian Schnabel had a hand in designing nearly every aspect of its interior spaces. The rooms are furnished in a palette of Renaissance colors inspired by the paintings of Raphael. Intrigued as to what this could mean for home decorators, I went to see for myself...

But first of all, I wanted to know specifically what colors Renaissance painters were using. These are somewhat difficult to name, as artists such as Da Vinci and Michelangelo were working in completely different palettes and techniques.

Raphael. Entombment. 1507. Oil on panel. Museo Galleria Borghese, Rome, Italy

Raphael himself moved through different styles over the course of his career, from a unified tonal scale to something much more chiaroscuro. So after some research, I'll make a generalization and say a Renaissance palette means primary colors of yellow ochre, burnt sienna and Payne's grey. Add deep jewel tones and an earth palette and you've got the following color wheel:

The Gramercy does indeed utilize these colors, and the interiors look both Old World and very contemporary at the same time.

The lobby, with its coffered ceilings, roaring fireplace and crimson velvet drapes feels as if it should be lit by torchlight.

The Jade Bar is a color green that reminds me of the Venetian painters Titian or Giorgione, and to my eye is contains a hint of moss.

I'd like to point out the difference between this and the pale sage colors that everyone uses: this green is much darker and richer, it's a more daring choice and it evokes another time and place in history.

Similarly, the Rose Bar is rough plaster in warm dusty rose. It is very sensual without being girly or bubblegum, and is nothing like the Easter-egg pastels we painted our suburban bathrooms in the 60s. This room also includes a 25-foot tufted sofa in green silk velvet, which may be an unusual color combination with the plaster wall but is actually quite smart.

Individual rooms are furnished along the same color theme of dark red, rose and jade, with the inclusion of a pale blue that looks like lightened Payne's grey, plus sapphire. Everything I saw - furniture, fabric and wall color - felt as if it was created with the same classical color vocabulary in mind and is often evocative an artists studio.

I'm not going to suggest specific color recommendations this week, but I'd like to point out that Ralph Lauren has a color line called Vintage Masters, which I've mentioned frequently in these pages, and which captures a certain feeling that one might associate with the Renaissance arts. If you've had great success with any of those colors, let us know.

Special thanks to Olivia Cuervo at Syndicate, and Brian Gilmartin for research assistance.

As an aside, "Color and Meaning: Practice and Theory in Renaissance Painting" by Marcia B. Hall is an exceptional reference book, clearly written in a way such that complex periods in history are defined in simple, elegant language. It's a must for anyone interested in Italian Gothic and Renaissance painting and frescoes and their techniques.

- Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

(ReEdited from 2007-06-19 - MGR)

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