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Many years ago I came upon an amazing book which displayed colour palettes through the ages showing only the colours which were available to the artists and craftspeople in specific centuries. Here’s my attempt to recreate this book,starting with an examination of the Lascaux cave paintings which are dated to around 17,300 years ago.

Pigments were made from different types of earth, mainly clays which had been tinted by various naturally occurring oxides: Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, These colour yielded deeper variations if they were baked: Burnt Ochre, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber. They were supplemented by chalk whites and blacks made from the soot of burnt trees and bones.

There were no blue or green paints and no primary colours.
There are few plays and operas written for this period. But if you want to suggest simplicity , or poverty, or the remote ancestral past then this limited palette works very well.


Greek propstableHere is a photo of a mosaic from ninth century Greece showing a props table laid out with masks and props.

Messy Nessy Chic has an interesting post on Ross MacDonald who specialises in making paper props for companies like HBO: fro Messy Nessy Chic

PhonographThe term “Hero Prop” is a recent invention from the world of film and refers to a prop which is intimately associated with the character who uses it. Thor’s hammer for example. Last year Props Co-ordinator Meg Courage made this Edison Bell Phonograph for the Guildhall end of year musical “Rags”

In the show Ben sets up in business selling phonographs. There is a big production number about the new invention. Bella who dies in the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire has recorded her voice on a cylinder which is played back to her father in a poignant moment .
Meg made a wooden carcass and salvaged mouldings from earlier prop makes. We used our new 3d printer for the first time to produce the handle on the case, the black wax cylinders, and the lid of the cylinder container which Props Assistant Tom Leggat decorated with a fresh off the press Edison Label with his impressive Photoshop skills. Props Assistant James Stallwood made a flared brass horn to complete the prop.