Colour ConText

The Colour ConText project initially relies on the results of a vast study conducted by Sylvie Neven on artistic treatises and recipe books produced from Antiquity across Europe.

In 2006, Sylvie started her research on these particular type of historical source, focussing on one of the most well-known recipe books produced in the Middle Ages: the Strasbourg Manuscript. For the purpose of her doctoral thesis, she examined dozens of recipes books from that period. Her study consisted not only in the transcription and translation of these texts but also relied on historical, philological and codicological analyses. Such an approach notably served to provide information concerning their historical and geographical contexts of redaction. At that time, the amount of information provided by artists’ recipe books necessitated recourse to information technology.

Sylvie compiled a first database taking into account the characteristics of the texts already known and studied. Initially, it concentrated on manuscripts written during the medieval period from Germany and the border countries. More than 300 examples were listed and their content divided according to every recipe that they contain. At that time Sylvie used the database to study the evolution of tradition of artists’ recipe collection over time. One of her main objectives was to improve knowledge of the nature and characteristics of medieval artists’ recipe books in order to better estimate their relevance as sources for the study of the history of artists’ techniques.

Photo d'un manuscrit
Photo de The Strasbourg Manuscript

Since 2016, Sylvie has extended her research to any type of text dealing with art-technology, produced from Antiquity until recent time. Doing so, her corpus includes not only the oldest artists’ recipes written on papyrus, but also medieval and premodern manuscripts as well as printed records of artists’ secrets or theoretical and teaching books.

From 2011-2015, Sylvie conducted a postdoctoral fellowship between the University of Liège and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. In this framework, Sylvie enlarged her corpus up the 650 texts. At the Maw Planck, she collaborated with the Research Group 'Art and Knowledge in Pre-Modern Europe' (Dir. Sven Dupré) and coordinated the development of another database dedicated to ‘Colour Practice and Knowledge’. This group investigated how artisans invented and appropriated knowledge, conceived and categorized knowledge, and transmitted and circulated knowledge in the visual and decorative arts in the pre-modern period. One focus of this Max Planck Research Group’s work is the role of written transmissions in the circulation of knowledge within the early modern artisanal workshop and beyond, starting with the close examination of collections of artisanal recipes.

Photo d'une lithographie

The project APPROACH intends to propose access to this original and largely unpublished corpus of art-technological sources the recourse to the Colour ConText database. Thanks to the various types of subscriptions, users can access to the contain of Colour ConText and make requests that can be subsequently saved on their own personal page.