The Potentialities for Colour in Vestment Design

Today I wished to share a chasuble which has its origins in Venice. The orphrey itself is dated to the early sixteenth century (circa 1500-1520) while the rest of the chasuble is dated to the eighteenth. However, the reason I thought to share this chasuble today is because it shows a colour combination that is less frequently seen for vestments of this type. Evidently in the medieval period there was a bit more playing with colour where orphreys where concerned, driven in part by the fact that they were frequently embroidered like you see here, containing figures set within architectural motifs. As the centuries progressed forward, this became slightly less common and the predominant approach came to be either no variation in the orphrey colour -- the orphreys being defined solely from the rest of the chasuble by its galloons -- or in many instances it came to be defined by the colour gold more generally.

Of course, this is something of a generalization as one can certainly find various examples in history of various colour combinations -- something we spoke about in our October 2021 article on Atypical Colour Combinations Seen in Historical Vestments.  Still, the point here is that they remain less frequently seen and this is particularly so come the 19th and 20th centuries, with some notable exceptions such as Austrian and some French vestment work which frequently employed two competing fabrics. 

The combination of red with blue orphreys is something, in modern times, that we have mainly seen expressed in gothic revival vestment work, but our example here today shows how there is great potential for this also within the context of other cuts, be they this baroque form, or also others such as the so-called "Neri" or Borromean shapes. 

My point in raising this is to invite those of you are either designing vestments or commissioning them to not be afraid to think beyond the confines of the more common design approaches to consider possibilities such as these.  Done with a proper sensitivity to both the tradition and to colour harmonies and accent colours, the end result -- like that shown here -- can be quite striking indeed.

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