[Intervention] Colour fashions in Constantinople in the light of some unpublished archives of a Florentine company (Ingrid Houssaye Michienzi et Dominique Cardon)

DHA 33Au congrès Dyes in History and Archaeology 33 (29 octobre-1er novembre 2014, Glasgow), Ingrid Houssaye Michienzi et Dominique Cardon sont intervenues sur le thème :

« Colour fashions in Constantinople in the light of some unpublished
archives of a Florentine company (end of the XVth century) »

The Archivio Salviati, upon which this communication is mostly based, is preserved in Pisa (Italy), at the Scuola Normale Superiore. This archive is the largest after that of Datini, a merchant in Prato. It contains thousands of account books and documents written from the 14th century until the 17th century, concerning textile production and international trade with many places in Europe and beyond. This paper presents the first results of work in progress on the documents in this Archive that concern the history of dyeing. This is only one aspect of a vast interdisciplinary research programme on the study and publication of the Archive: the ANR (Agence Nationale de la Recherche, France)’s programme “ENPrESA”.

The proposed paper is primarily based on the study of three account books written from Ottoman Constantinople at the end of the 15th century. On the Giornale e Ricordi, Giovanni di Marco Salviati wrote, in Tuscan language, the daily activities from 1491 to 1493. The information inside the journal is written again in two other registers, named Debitori e Creditori, which contain the accounts of people or merchandizes that corresponded to a debt or a credit. They are the only account books of Florentine people written within the Ottoman Constantinople that are known to be preserved in the archives of any country, so far.

Our study focuses on lists of bales of different types of woollen cloth sent to Constantinople, in which not only the length, but the colour of each piece of cloth is mentioned. This mass of information gives precious insights into the colour tastes of the Ottoman buyers at the time.

But the historical interest of these documents only appears in full light when compared with:

– similar lists included in the earlier account book of a Venetian merchant in Constantinople, Giacomo Badoer, just before the city fell to the Turk;

– a Venetian dyer’s book contemporanean with the documents from the Salviati Archive, giving precise recipes for most of the colours mentioned in the lists;

– later documents from the French Archives, concerning the dyes and colours of the woollen-cloth specially produced for consumers in the Ottoman Empire, “the Levant”, showing the long life of many colour names, giving recipes to obtain such colours, and illustrating them with dyed cloth-samples.