Friday 13 December 1661

At home all the morning, being by the cold weather, which for these two days has been frost, in some pain in my bladder. Dined at home and then with my wife to the Paynter’s, and there she sat the first time to be drawn, while I all the while stood looking on a pretty lady’s picture, whose face did please me extremely. At last, he having done, I found that the dead colour of my wife is good, above what I expected, which pleased me exceedingly. So home and to the office about some special business, where Sir Williams both were, and from thence with them to the Steelyard, where my Lady Batten and others came to us, and there we drank and had musique and Captain Cox’s company, and he paid all, and so late back again home by coach, and so to bed.


13 Annotations

RexLeo  •  Link

"...the dead colour of my wife is good, above what I expected, which pleased me exceedingly"

Has anybody an idea what "the dead colour" means? It is surprising how the passage of time has changed even the most ordinary words.

dirk  •  Link

"the dead colour"

Maybe the white colour that was supposedly the ideal "teint" for a woman's face?

A. De Araujo  •  Link

"dead color"
Allwords.com:"In painting the first layer of paint thinly applied to the surface of a canvas or panel"

Australian Susan  •  Link

"...while I all the while stood looking on a pretty lady's picture, whose face did please me extremely….”
Oh Sam! Sam! Sam! Maybe Elizabeth didn’t notice? It’s the honesty of Sam’s remarks, such as this, which make this diary such excellent reading (one thing among many).
It’s good that he is much better pleased with Savill’s attempt on Elizabeth’s likeness than his own - he was becoming quite sour about his portrait. Wonder what Elizabeth thought of both portraits?

Diana Bonebrake  •  Link

It must have been terribly frustrating to have so little recourse medically speaking.
People must have suffered minor ailments until they became major ones.

Mary  •  Link

"looking on a pretty lady's picture"

These days there is a surfeit of 'pretty ladies' pictures' for men to look on. TV, film, newspapers, magazines, advertising hoardings. Let's not be too surprised when Sam comments on the fact that he has gazed at one; he won't have had nearly as many opportunities to do so as 20th/21st century men.

Glyn  •  Link

Both portraits? I'd assumed that they were being painted together in a single portrait showing that they were a married couple, though of course they would be painted separately. Just a guess, though.

hiplew  •  Link

A Google search turned up this definition of "dead color"

"Any color used for under painting or LAYING-IN the design for an oil painting on canvas to be carried out in the traditional method rather than ALLA PRIMA. The color is usually a dull brown, gray or green, and the under painting includes the indication of tonal values."

I imagine that's pretty close to what Sam is talking about.

See:

http://www.artdealeryellowpages.com/glossary.php

Australian Susan  •  Link

Portrait(s)
Good point, Glyn! I had assumed there were two portraits, because others are singletons, but I have no reason to do so; except that with the comment today about the "dead colour" being applied, that seems to imply the canvas was in a state of preparation - surely if it had been a double portrait, that preliminary work would already have been done? Don't know enough about art - expert needed!

Ruben  •  Link

Portrait(s)
two portraits "stand alone" are much cheaper than a composition with two portraits in it.
They are many reasons: a single portrait can dispense of an elaborated background. Then the size of the single canvas. The need to coordinate between size of the persons and use of proper light, direction of the light over both figures, etc.
For a "first time seater" like Pepys and not with a big budget, I presume, the logical conclusion has to be that they were two seperate portraits.

Louise Hudson  •  Link

Australian Susan wrote

"...while I all the while stood looking on a pretty lady's picture, whose face did please me extremely….”
Oh Sam! Sam! Sam! Maybe Elizabeth didn’t notice? It’s the honesty of Sam’s remarks, such as this, which make this diary such excellent reading (one thing among many).

Louise: I'm sure if Elizabeth did notice he would have said something about studying the painting technique--certainly not the subject.

Susan: It’s good that he is much better pleased with Savill’s attempt on Elizabeth’s likeness than his own - he was becoming quite sour about his portrait.

Louise: Don't we all have a picture in our heads about what we look like? Isn't that picture far better looking than any "likeness," be it a painting in Sam's day or a photograph in ours? I'm always chagrined at what I look like in photos. They look nothing like the picture I have of myself in my head. But Sam knows what Elizabeth looks like so the painting might well have reflected her actual looks (even in dead color) . Sam, though, was probably convinced that he was much better looking than he was depicted on canvas.

Chris Squire UK  •  Link

OED has:

ˈdead colour The first or preparatory layer of colour in a painting.
. . 1672 C. Beale Pocket-bk. in H. Walpole Vertue's Anecd. Painting (1763) III. i. 70, 5 June, Dr. Tillotson sat..to Mr. Lely for him to lay in a dead colour of his picture.
. . 1901 Scribner's Monthly Aug. 255/1 There was, indeed, an early method employed by painters of laying in their pictures in what they were pleased to term ‘dead color’, as a kind of foundation or preparation for their succeeding painting.’

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