[Intervention] Yellow dyes of historical importance IV. Sawwort (Serratula tinctoria L.) and weld (Reseda luteola L.) in the Florentine Dye company “Francesco di Giuliano Salviati e Comp., tintori d’arte maggiore”, 1483-1498 (Dominique Cardon, Ingrid Houssaye Michienzi)

Dyes in history 34 - copieDyes in History & Archaeology 34,
University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki, 21-24 octobre 2015

http://www.dha2015.gr

This presentation is the continuation of several former presentations at DHA meetings: it is the fourth part of the first author’s series “Yellow dyes of historical importance” (DHA 13, 14 and 16/17) and it offers a focus on the yellow dyes that allowed the Salviati company of Arte della Lana (specializing in broadcloth production) to export so many green broadcloths to Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire, as presented last year at DHA 33 in Glasgow.

We now report on our study of three registers, among the thousands preserved in the Salviati Archive, at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, Italy. The registers are the only three preserved account books of the company “Francesco di Giuliano Salviati e Comp., tintori d’Arte Maggiore in Firenze”, a dye company settled in Florence. Francesco’s father, Giuliano di Francesco Salviati, was involved, with two of his uncles (Iacopo di Giovanni and Alamanno di Averardo), in the production of broadcloth of high and medium qualities. Iacopo di Giovanni, his uncle, was also involved in the production of silk textiles. Francesco di Giuliano, through his dye company, was thus completing the activities of an important family business that operated in textile production.

The two first books record all commercial dealings, organized by products and providers (buying dyes and mordants, paying furnishers, dyers, local custom duties, etc.)

  • 394 is their Libro azzuro, seg. A, corresponding to the years 1483 to 1486
  • 395 is their Libro giallo, seg. B, corresponding to the years 1486 to 1491

The third one, Reg. 396, is a Giornale, recording all dailies activities from 1490 to 1498

Among the treasures of information the three books provide, we chose to study the sourcing and use of two yellow dyes of historical importance, sawwort and weld, by this company. It had never been possible to do this for a mediaeval dye company in such detail before.

This research has brought really striking information:

  • on the relative importance of dye plants collected in their wild, natural environment (exemplified here by sawwort) and of a massively cultivated dye plant such as weld;
  • on the areas from which the plants were sourced;
  • on the quantities used.

It also opens fascinating perspectives on the rhythms of crops, on a possible depletion of wild resources, and/or evolutions in fashion influencing the choice of one source of yellow dye in preference to the other.

Program and Book of Abstracts


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