Identifying Fuchsine Visually in Dress and Textile Collections

Quye, A. , Scholler, E.-A. and Wieber, S. (2014) Identifying Fuchsine Visually in Dress and Textile Collections. In: 33rd Annual Meeting of Dyes in History and Archaeology, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK, 29 Oct - 1 Nov 2014,

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The discovery and subsequent industrialisation of aniline dyes in the second half of the nineteenth century revolutionised the European chemical industry and its approach to dyeing. Mauve was the first aniline dye to be available on the market, but fuchsine – or magenta as it was often called in Great Britain – was usually considered to be the most significant aniline dye. It was first patented by François-Emmanuel Verguin in Lyon in 1858 and soon produced by Renard Frères and several other manufacturers in France, Great Britain, Germany and Switzerland. [1] Fuchsine’s chemical and economic impact has been extensively studied in both contemporary and recent sources. However, its cultural impact, always assumed to be important, has been little investigated. [2] This lack of research might be partially explained by the difficulty of recognising its presence in written, visual and material sources. This research has sought to enable the cultural study of fuchsine by establishing a methodology to identify it. This particular methodology is constituted of three main stages, each focusing on a different type of source. The first stage uses contemporary dyeing manuals and dictionaries to clarify and explain the complex terminology of the dye. Fuchsine was given a great variety of names, such as aniline red, Magenta, rosaniline or Solferino which all have slightly different connotations and usages. Understanding the historical and geographical context of each of these names helps to detect and interpret fuchsine in written sources, including captions of textile samples. Textile samples from dyeing manuals are the focus of the second stage which explores the multiplicity of appearances which fuchsine can take on textile, depending on the fibre, concentration, purity and manufacturer. The most representative appearances of fuchsine on silk, wool and cotton, identified in the second stage, are used as references in the third stage in order to identify likely examples of fuchsine in dress and textile collections. This multidisciplinary research demonstrates how scientific literature can be of great use to the study of colour and dyes in dress and textile histories. Using this methodology systematically and on a large scale would facilitate the detection and interpretation of fuchsine-dyed textiles in collections. Although the focus of this particular study has been put on one dye, this methodology has potential beyond the scope of fuchsine and could be applied to other synthetic dyes and, with some adaptation, to natural dyes as well.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Quye, Dr Anita and Wieber, Dr Sabine
Authors: Quye, A., Scholler, E.-A., and Wieber, S.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Culture and Creative Arts > History of Art
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