Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Kindly Look Through Your Victorian Eyes, Please....


"Gross! Look at those awful color combinations!" "What were they thinking?" I hear people say. My response, "They are awful in the most wonderful, beautiful Victorian way"

I often ask people who are new to Victoriana to look through "your Victorian eyes".  That is to completely drop our pre-conceived contemporary idea of beautiful color combinations and see the world differently.  A world with a mixture of natural and aniline (chemical) dyes that create a multitude of rich muted tones often played against strong vibrant ones.  It is a world where patterns and textures are layered and prominent.  Now, add changes in lighting. These colors and patterns would have one look in the daylight and take on something entirely different in the dim lighting of the evening. The soft moody glow of whale oil lamps, tallow and paraffin candles would later in the era give way to the soft brighter glow of kerosene, gas and electric light.  The flicker of these artificial lights would play on the contrast of these colors as would the dim winter daylight here in the Upper Midwest.

It is in this setting that these colors and patterns would thrive.  I am only sorry that I do not adequately possess good evening photos with period lighting. If you should ever have the opportunity to tour an appropriately lit 19th c. home by all means do not pass it by. It is in the evenings and during the dim winter days that it becomes the easiest to see through your Victorian eyes.

Parlour at Koepsell House as seen at Old World WI (c. 1880).  Frederick and Sophia Koepsell are middle class German immigrant farmers living in Jackson, WI.  (Frederick & Sophia Koepsell's images can be seen hanging in the large oval portrait.)

The parlour at Christmas of the Benson House as seen at Old World Wisconsin c. 1880. Wesley and Sophia Benson are middle class Yankees living in Fort Atkinson, WI.


  1. So true, Anne. I remember the first time I got to see some of the OWW buildings by lamplight--it was remarkable.

    And by the way - your blog looks even better on my big screen than on my phone!

  2. thanks Anne love this Blog

  3. I love the fabrics, especially the last purple one. And I love the image of Benson at Christmas! That's my favorite building at Old World, and I loved working there for the Christmas lamplight tour (except the front door would blow open with every breeze, making the house hard to keep warm).