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On the Use of White and Pink/Flesh Colors in the Tarot de Marseille


BradGad

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On the Use of White and Pink/Flesh Colors in the Tarot de Marseille

 

This is a long post. Here is the TLDR version: The use of white and pink in the Tarot de Marseille, especially the Conver deck, is kind of a big deal.

 

I have been noodling with these ideas for a while. I am presenting them here in draft form and invite feedback.

 

The numbers in parentheses are footnotes. There are notes at the very bottom of the post. 

 

I have also posted the essay in my nascent blog, Dispatches from the Cosmic Command Post.

 

~~~

 

A great many Tarot de Marseilles (TdM) decks produced in the mid-18th century depict the “protagonist” figure of the cards from the major arcana and the court cards with purely white faces. Many depict the same figures with pink or flesh tones for the hands and other parts of the body, indicating that use of white for the face is a conscious choice on the part of the card maker, and not the result of some limitation in printing technology.

 

Furthermore — across multiple decks — there is a consistent pattern(1) of where the pink or flesh tone appears in other parts of card, either in pieces or areas of clothing, or in symbols of authority or other implements used by or associated with the protagonist figure. 

 

These observations are not original. The purpose of this essay is to present a two-faceted discussion that may make original points: 1) The patterns of use of “white face” in the Tarot de Marseilles suggest we should consider protagonist characters as wearing a mask, in the manner of theatre across the ages as well as dances and ceremonies important to indigenous peoples since time immemorial, and 2) the location, the “attribution,” of the pink color in other parts of the card is significant: the attribution of this color indicates a meaningful aspect of the protagonist figure, and what is most important to him or her. And if 1 and 2 have any validity, we can explore the idea that these features offer a layer of meaning in the cards that can usefully be explored when using the tarot for divination or self-discovery.

 

To provide context for our discussion — before investigating ideas of masks and performance, and of white and pink as signifying elements —  I will provide some rather bald data: a listing of significant, extant historical decks, and an indication of the color used for the majority of faces in the major arcana and court cards, as well as the color used for hands and other body parts. The listing is not exhaustive, and there are, within decks, exceptions in each case. The listing also includes decks from outside the period with which we opened this discussion (the mid-18th century), as well as some decks that purists would not label as Tarot de Marseille. Finally, the listing only includes “mass market” (for the times) decks produced with wood blocks: it does not include one-off hand-painted decks.

 

Madenié 1709: White faces, white hands

Heri 1718: White faces, white hands

Heri 1730: White faces, white hands

Payan 1713: White faces, pink hands

Laurent 1735: White faces, pink hands 

Cheminade 1742: White faces, white hands

Burdel 1751: White faces, white hands

Rochias 1754 (Swiss): White faces, pink hands

Conver 1760: White faces, pink hands

Feautrier 1762: White faces, pink hands

Jerjer 1801: Pink faces, pink hands

Arnoux & Ae Amphoux 1801/1802: White faces, pink hands

Gassmann 1840: Pink faces, pink hands

 

Also: In the late 20th and early 21st century, two thoughtful recreations of the Conver 1760 deck achieved what might be called “critical mass” in terms of acceptance and interest, and played a great role in bringing the Tarot de Marseille to the attention of readers outside of France and environs who had previously dealt only with decks from the Rider-Waite-Smith (RWS) tradition. In both decks, the pink flesh tone is replaced by a tan color, and in both, the attribution of the “hand color” (here, a tan) in other parts of the cards remains consistent with that of the historical decks in general, and the Conver 1760 deck in particular.(2)

 

Camion-Jodorowsky 1997: Tan faces, tan hands

Conver Ben-Dove 2016: Tan faces, tan hands

 

Considering the above, we may paint some broad strokes. In the earliest decks, areas of flesh were often not colored at all, regardless of position or body part. By the mid-1700s, white faces on characters that are otherwise rendered with flesh tones becomes a norm. In the 19th and 20th century, the white faces have largely disappeared, with flesh tone used for the faces as well as other body parts. 

 

White Face as Mask

 

My tone so far may suggest I consider myself a scholar of the tarot, competent to make historical arguments. I am not. This essay is not a reasoned argument for a way of reading the cards, but simply an exploration. 

 

I primarily use the Conver 1760 deck, and as I interact with it, both the white faces, considered as masks, and the use of the pink flesh tone elsewhere in the cards present as signifying elements. 

 

A scholarly exploration of the use of masks in theatre and ceremonial dances and rites is well beyond the scope of the essay. Instead I will simply offer some thoughts. 

 

In this Conver deck, the hands and other body parts of major figures (such as the legs of the male figure in The Lover) are consistently rendered in a somewhat realistic pinkish flesh tone. This makes it clear that the use of white for the faces was a conscious decision on Conver’s part when applying color(3).  

 

The white faces can (I believe should) be considered as masks. 

 

In theatre, since at least the time of the ancient Greeks, the use of masks offers an obvious practical benefit: they allow an actor to play multiple roles. 

 

We often hear (and talk) about the cards in a tarot spread as telling a story. We could just as easily think of it as the cards as staging a play. I am going to put my cards on the table here (as it were): I conceive of my deck (this particular deck) as a living entity, with a name and a personality.  (Call that quirky or worse if you wish, but it is working for me.) I find it helpful to contextualize a spread as her staging a play for me. To do so, she has to adopt different characters, different personae, at different places in the spread. She uses masks to do this. That is, the use of color in the deck (here, white) emphasizes the idea that each card is a role, an instantiation. It is not the whole; it is the whole presenting in a particular aspect.  

 

The play has an audience: me, and whoever I am reading for. The idea of masks signifying identity is relevant on this side as well. We go to tarot — we ask the deck to stage a play for us — for many reasons, including advice and insight. And, bless them, the cards answer. The cards give us advice that often takes forms like, “Now is not a time for action. It is a time to retreat and reflect. So, be like The Hermit. Put on your Hermit mask. For now, be that character in the play that is your life.” Or, “Yes, you’re a sweet guy, but right now you need to man up and show leadership and decision. Your family needs this. So pull out your Emperor mask and be the Emperor. Take on that role.”

 

The cards both acknowledge and depict something central to the human condition: at different times, in different situations (so many times and situations in the course of a life), we have to assume different roles. 

 

To put it simply, you are you, and you are also always someone to someone, and the someone changes (and the someone is often you). 

 

To navigate this, you will constantly need to don different masks. The cards acknowledge this. They endorse it. And they provide guidance for which masks you need to take out and don at given moments in your life.

 

Some final notes on this: There are only five cards in the Conver deck where the protagonist figure appears without white face: The Hanged Man (12), Card XIII (“Death”), The Devil (15), The Star (17), and The World (21)  

 

Of these, I consider only The Hanged Man to depict a truly human figure. The others are either depictions of an idea or, in the case of The Star, a human-appearing figure who clearly exists in a dream world, and therefore is more emblematic than human. (And the name of the card is The Star. Perhaps the woman is not the protagonist, but rather the large star at the top of the image.)

 

Again, only one clearly human figure appears without a white-face mask: The Hanged Man. This reinforces the idea of The Hanged Man being a card about meditation and self-sacrifice as a path to self-awareness, rather than delay, paralysis, or torture. The Hanged Man has put himself in this position to see who he really is, without masks.

 

This notion of tarot figures wearing masks can be considered when working with any deck. At the simplest level, my point is that — through their use of white and pink — many TdM decks foreground this idea and encourage us to think about masks and roles as we interact with the cards. 

 

The Pink/Flesh Color as a Signifier

 

The Conver deck not only uses a semi-realistic pink color as a flesh tone in the major arcana and court cards, but also repeats this color in other areas of the cards. Other TdM decks do not present the color outside of area of flesh as frequently as in the Conver, but when they do, they almost always present it in the same positions. So, the placement of this color is not a unique quirk of the Conver deck, and it is not random, but rather a widely used feature that is emphasized more in the Conver than in other surviving historical decks.

 

My belief is that these “attributions” of the color in other areas of the card were an intentional choice on Conver’s part(3), and that they bear exploration.

 

Of everything discussed so far, this idea —  how the color pink “attributes” in the cards — is the most difficult to express. Clearly it is highly subjective. But:

 

Let us consider the placement of this color as an indicator of what is most significant to or valued by the protagonist figures.

 

Or, let us consider the placement of this color as an index, a pointer, to what we should pay attention to… in the cards, in ourselves, or for the querent.

 

(Alejandro Jodorowsky — a controversial but indisputably learned commentator on the tarot — takes up colors in the cards, and, in a chart, puts this beside the flesh color: “Human realm, conscious life.” Let us keep that idea in mind: the color can be an indicator of what the protagonist (the “human”)  is aware of (“conscious”) as important and self-defining.)

 

I am at a loss to better explain my sense that there is meaning here, in this layer of the card imagery, so let us simply look at the cards.

 

The Magician, Le Bateleur (1): We see the pink color in two places: a scarf-like garment around the Magician’s throat, and his table along with the tools laid out upon it.

 

In several cards, the use of pink around the neck is ambiguous: it could be a scarf-like garment, or it could simply be the flesh of the protagonist’s neck. Here, because of its width, it seems clearly to be a scarf or collar. This attribution indicates the importance of his voice, his words. Le Bateleur is a street performer: his patter, his schtick, is how he makes his living. In the broad, popular idea of magicians, what do they do? They use words to cast spells. 

 

The largest area of the signifying color in this card is on the table and tools. This man is all about his craft. He uses tools to bring about his will. Among other things, he is a technician. The Magician uses tools and and tricks to get what he wants. The RWS Magician is a more positive and exalted figure, but the same holds: he uses a wand and the implements on the table before him to manifest his will. 

 

The Popess, La Pappesse (2): Here the signifying color appears all around the protagonist’s head, and in a band across her heart.

 

La Papesse, the High Priestess… this is a complex figure, but however we approach or depict her, there is always a strong link with knowledge. This woman knows things (head), but its source is more intuitive (heart) than reasoned. 

 

The Empress, L'Imperatrice (3): The RWS tradition foregrounds the feminine aspects of The Empress, and identifies her most strongly with ideas such as motherhood, fertility, and nurturing (which are all to the good).  In contrast (but not in contradiction), the TdM tradition foregrounds the actual card/woman as named: she is The Empress. She is a leader. She is a head of state. 

 

The color pink appears here at the neck, and in this case, it really is a bare neck, rather than a garment around her throat. And this lets us see an intriguing detail, communicated through a very short and simple line in the art: she has an Adam’s apple, which is usually considered a male feature. The Empress is a woman, she is very female, but she is in a role traditionally reserved for men. In order to play her role, in order to succeed as an Empress, she must evince masculine qualities alongside her strong feminine nature. The Empress is arguably the epitome of the feminine in the tarot, but there is also an element of androgyny here: her role requires her to take on male aspects.

 

The only place in the card where the signifying color pink unambiguously attributes is in her scepter, the symbol of her authority as a leader and head of state. 

 

The Emperor, L'Empereur (4): This is not a nuanced card: authority, leadership, stability… rationality and strategy, defending boundaries… also the father role.

 

The signifying color attributes here in only one place: The Emperor’s throne, the seat and symbol of his authority. The man has become the role, the position.

 

The Pope, Le Pape (5): We will consider The Pope below, alongside The Hermit and Justice.

 

The Lover, L'Amoureux (6): By the terms of my thesis (the TdM uses the pink color in the human protagonists’ garments or implements as a layer of meaning), this is a problematic card. The color is present in the whole body of the Cupid figure and in the lower male figure’s legs, but never in a garment or object.

 

A possibility: I see a pattern in the use of the color with protagonist figures, but it is not clear that this card has a protagonist. The card is called “The Lover,” and Cupid’s arrow is pointing towards the male, but he is not graphically privileged like the other figures we have and will look at. He is not larger than the others. He does not fill the frame. He seems to have little agency. Rather, he is a one actor in a multi-part scene.

 

The Chariot, Le Chariot (7): The name of this card is “The Chariot,” not “The Charioteer.” So, is the man in the chariot truly the protagonist? Is he the star player at this moment in the play, or is he — like The Lover — a character in a scene? 

 

Here the signifying color attributes to the chariot itself and to the scepter held by the charioteer. The horses are not controlled by reins: both visually and by established traditions of the card’s meaning, they are controlled by the charioteer’s will, represented by his scepter.  This is a card about willpower and motion, as shown with the color. The human aspect is secondary.

 

Justice, La Justice (8): Justice will be considered below, alongside The Pope and The Hermit.

 

The Hermit, L'Hermite (9), The Pope (5), and Justice (8): For each of these figures, the pink color attributes to the inside, the inner lining, of the protagonist’s robes. 

 

For an idea of how the color may signify in these cards, consider Alec Guiness’s portrayal of Obi-Wan Kenobe in the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope. Obi-Wan abides in the desert, and Luke’s uncle calls him “a strange old hermit.” As a quick internet search for “hermit desert” will show, the connection between hermits and the desert is long and deep. 

 

Obi-Wan never makes outward displays of emotion, beyond, perhaps, gentle amusement. But we never feel that he lacks emotion: he seems to have a very rich inner life and genuine humanity. His inner life and emotions are rich, but they are not for public display. 

 

I believe Obi-Wan is an exemplar of the kind of emotional restraint and privacy signaled by the attribution of pink in these three cards. The Hermit in the tarot is, well, very much like Obi-Wan: a figure who has retreated from the world, and through a meditative discipline has gained wisdom and even power.

 

The Pope is very much a public figure, but if he is a good spiritual leader, he will have risen to this high position at least in part because of his spiritual gifts and strengths. Like The Hermit, he will have wisdom and a rich inner life. When performing his role, his actions are public and ritualistic, but he is not an automaton or functionary. There is a depth to the man.

 

Justice too is a very public figure. In this card, the pink color attributes around her brow: she must make reasoned judgments. It also attributes around her throat: the most powerful aspect of her role is to pronounce sentence. Her words determine the fate of those who come before her.

 

And if she is a good judge, her determinations will be guided and tempered by an inner wisdom. She will embody not only law and order, but justice tempered with mercy. 

 

The Wheel of Fortune, La Rove de Fortune (10): There is no human protagonist figure in this card. I will simply note that the pink color appears in the beams supporting the wheel and inside the controlling imp’s cloak.

 

Strength, La Force (11): I believe the previous cards show a pattern emerging, where the parts of the card shaded in pink indicate what is most important to the figures. They show where or in what the protagonists invest their life energy. 

 

(An irreverent aside: Who else uses La Force, The Force? Jedi! I bet her robe is pink inside, just like Obi-Wan's and The Hermit's.)

 

Many, probably most, tarot readers see the lion in the Strength card as a representation of powerful inner drives. It is life energy writ large. 

 

This woman has pink around her throat and down the front of her dress, The area covers her heart and descends down across her abdomen. It is a triangular shape that tapers downward, but the lower portion is obscured by her arm. If the triangular shape were extended to the point where the two long sides meet, it would terminate at her groin. 

 

This woman controls inner drives — the powerful life energy that for some people becomes destructive — with a strength that comes from her heart, and from her very core. When she speaks, her words will be powerfully expressive and persuasive. 

 

The Hanged Man, Le Pendu (12): As we saw earlier, The Hanged Man is the only human protagonist figure in the deck who presents without a mask. He is also the only one where there the pink color does not appear anywhere other than his flesh. 

 

Earlier I suggested his lack of a mask reinforces the interpretation of the card as a meditative effort to find the true self, without the masks we put on in our social roles. Perhaps identifying the true self also involves divesting from garments, tools, and symbols.

 

Card XIII: I don’t believe we can apply the same emerging rules to this figure as with the human protagonists. I will note though that Conver makes dramatic use of the pink color here. I find this rendition of the death figure in Card XIII to be one of the most powerful, even disturbing, of any of the decks I have viewed. In many decks, it seems essentially a skeleton figure. This figure seems to have been entirely flayed. Rather than bones, it is nothing but flesh, flesh stripped of even the protective covering of a skin.  

 

Temperance, Temperance (14): The protagonist here is an angel, not a human. It is not clear to me that the attribution of pink signifies in the same way for human and non-human figures. I will note, though, that the pattern here is essentially identical with that in the Strength card: pink around the throat, and in a downward-tapering triangle over her heart and upper abdomen. Like the woman in Strength, she displays effortless control, here used to move water between two vessels. We cannot really say she pours water from one vessel to the other: water in the real world does not pour at a forty-five degree angle; it pours straight down. Like The Star discussed above, Temperance here is not a person but an emblematic figure existing in a realm controlled by dream physics. 

 

The Devil, Le Diable (15): Another non-human figure. Another special case. The Devil card is most frequently identified with manipulation and with sexuality. For a figure invested in these, arms and genitals would be quite important. They are pink here.

 

The Tower, La Maison Dieu (16): Non-human. Conventionally associated with great, even disastrous, change and the unmaking of stable structures, The Tower is often discussed as a phallic symbol as well, with the action at the top of the card considered as an orgasm or ejaculation. I will simply note that in the Conver deck, this phallic symbol is flesh colored.

 

The Star, Le Toile (17): We have touched on The Star previously. I would argue that the female figure here is not, strictly speaking, a human. She is an emblem of [choose your interpretation] appearing in a dream-like landscape governed by a dream physics. She is able to remain supported by the surface of water. (In most decks, one knee of the figure rests on the land, but her other foot does rest on top of — not in — the water.) The bird on the tree is never drawn to scale. While the image is static, it communicates no sense that she needs to repeatedly dip the vessels in the water to refill them, but rather they seem to endlessly pour. Her flesh is, of course, flesh-colored.

 

The Moon, La Lune (18): One of only two cards outside of the pips in which no human-like figure appears (the other being The Wheel of Fortune). (With Card XIII, we at least see parts of human figures.)

 

The most common color pattern is for one canine (the one on the right) to be rendered in the pink/flesh color we have been considering and the other in a relatively light blue color. I cannot help but wonder if this pairing or opposition signifies: that is, if the pink or flesh color means something about life energy and consciously-identified tokens of identity, does the light blue color carry similar (but likely opposite) freight? A topic for a different essay.

 

The Sun, Le Soleil (19): No human protagonist. The near-nude young male figures are, naturally, rendered in flesh tone.

 

Judgment, Le Jugement (20): No human protagonist. Two of the nude human figures below are rendered in flesh tone, with the third in the same light blue we saw in the left-hand canine in The Moon. It may or may not signify that pink appears in the angel’s wings, on the flag, around the throat, and the whole of the sounding horn.

 

The World, Le Monde (21): Non-human. Pink appears in the lowest, most animal-identified figure (the bovine on the lower left) and the highest, most celestial figure (the angel on the upper left).

 

The Fool, Le Mat (0): We close the majors with one last human protagonist. The legs of his trousers, the sleeve on the arm holding his walking stick, and the bag holding his possessions are all pink. The Fool is most consistently discussed as going on a journey, and of course “The Fool’s Journey” is a widespread trope for the tarot as a whole. Each area rendered in pink here attaches to something that enables journeying through the world. 

 

The use of pink in the court cards is similarly suggestive, but I will not go through each card individually. Instead, some patterns: 

 

Pink appears in the throne of each of the kings, strongly recalling The Emperor.

 

It would be tidy and symmetrical if we could say that, in contrast, pink appears in none of the queens’ thrones, but the tarot — a tissue of patterns — always inserts an exception to its emerging rules. Pink does appear on the throne of the Queen of Coins.

 

Pink appears on all of the knights’ horses, which fits with their traditional interpretations around movement and action, as well as the name of the cards and the title: “cavalier” (Type II) and “chevalier” (Type I) both derive from the vulgar Latin word for horse, “caballas,” which displaced “equus” of classical Latin. 

 

In three of the knights (Coins, Wands, Cups) pink attributes only on the horse. It attributes on the right shoulder of the Knight of Swords, as well as on the shoulders of the King of Swords. What do you do with a sword? You swing it. With your shoulder.

 

Twice now, we have seen an all-but-one or a three-but-not-the-fourth pattern in the courts. Here are some others:

 

One of the queens (coins) has a bare neck. 

 

The pink scarf around the throat, which can be associated with voice or expression, appears on only one of the kings (wands). 

 

Three of the pages (coins, wands, cups) have a pink scarf around the throat, but not the fourth (swords); three of the knights have a light blue color around the throat (wands, swords, cups), but not the fourth (coins). The colors of the canines in The Moon are echoing here. 

 

~

 

To summarize:

 

A white face on a human figure that is otherwise presented with natural flesh tones strongly suggests the idea that the figures are wearing masks. The  figures literally look like they are wearing masks, which brings into consideration associated ideas such as roles, personae, and spread-as-story, spread-as-play.

 

Whatever decks we are using, ideas of masks, roles, personae, and plays provide a useful vocabulary for reading and discussing the cards in a spread. 

 

In the Conver 1760 deck, the pink color appears outside of uncovered flesh in garments or items that resonate with with the human protagonists’ defining characteristics or the aspect of character where they invest most of their life energy.

 

The Conver deck uses the pink color in this way more than other Tarot de Marseilles decks, but not differently: other decks often omit this feature, but virtually never use it in different parts of the cards. 

 

 

_________

 

(1) It is not a perfectly consistent pattern, of course. This is the tarot. The tarot is a tapestry of patterns (progressions, cycles, matrices), but the pattern is never perfectly regular.  Within decks and across decks, there are always aberrations, always exceptions that prove the rule. Which is to say, the tarot is organic, not mechanistic. (Many find the expression “The exception that proves the rule” to be odd or even non-sensical. It is not. The expression does not mean “The exception that proves the rule to be true.” Rather, the word “proves” should be read as “tests”… as in the sense of “a proving ground”.  The expression means, “The exception that tests how far we can take the rule, and locates the point where the rule breaks down.”)

 

(2) Both the Camion-Jodorowsky and Ben-Dove decks use the Conver 1760 deck as their reference point for recreating the Tarot de Marseille. And, this may the point where I should make a disclosure: I too consider the Conver 1760 deck, not as in any way authoritative (that idea does not work with something as fluid and organic as the tarot), but as the deck that best represents the Tarot de Marseille in its full maturity, and the tarot as best rendered before later, individualistic esoteric elements entered the picture. To borrow from an oath, I consider it “All the tarot, and nothing but the tarot.”  Call this a judgment or a bias: either way I am aware of it, and have made my best effort to take it into account in the ensuing discussions.

 

(3) We do not know who created the wooden molds used for this deck, but — assuming the 1760 date means anything — we do know one thing: it wasn’t Nicholas Conver. Conver’s father, Mathieu, a card maker, did not settle in Marseille until 1766, and Nicholas Conver did not become a card maker until 1801. During this period, ownership of the molds used to make cards was often transferred, either because of bankruptcy or death, or in a simple sale. It was also a common practice to carve out elements of the mold — such as the trademark-like information usually placed on the Two of Coins — and replace it with something more current. So, Nicholas Conver did not design the cards. But, as a working card maker between 1801 and 1829, he would have overseen production of the cards coming from his shop, and this includes the selection and application of color, presumably through a stencil process.

 

 

Edited by BradGad

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Interesting topic, thank you!

 

I have some additional thoughts, if you don’t mind 🙂
 

I have always seen the white faces as an expression of the historical ‘skin lightening’ fashion that was Initiated among Roman’s in the 14th century. It was particularly popular by the Christian population. In the beginning it was mainly women who did it, but by the 15th century, it was a shared practice by men and women in Europe to apply whitening powders to their faces. In a way, this were a mask - or a façade. But it was also a widespread fashion in the area where tarot was born. 
 

I think it’s also worth considering that additional colors meant the printing process would take longer and cost more, so those things would likely have played a role too, especially in the beginning. 
 

In my rune studies, I have come across a few illustrated European manuscripts, created in the same periods as those tarot decks that you mention. The pages are often colored in a very similar way as tarot cards, and skin tones are left white.  So it leads me to think that fashion and sheer practicalities where involved there too. 

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This is a very interesting take on the Marseille deck.  I only own one now; the Fournier ©2019 deck, which is fully coloured.  I owned another one, which had the white faces as you describe, but I gave it away in my recent tarot deck clear-out.  I don't know which deck it was, though.  I don't actually use the Marseille deck, as I prefer illustrated pips, but I wanted to keep one.  But the one I gave away has very flat colors.  I like this Fournier deck better because the colouring appeals to me—much less stark than other Marseille decks.  As a result, it has an 'older' feel to it ...ironically enough.  But I really like thinking about the white faces as masks.  I suspect you're right, that this colouring was deliberate.  Thanks for a thoughtful article.

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Tarot_Apprentice

Posted

BradGrad:

 

I like this treatise and the even-handed and fair way you've broached your subject. I'm recalling Jodorowsky's observation that one could do a reading from left to right, and immediately reread the same sequence from right to left -- and both readings would be equal valid. This level of virtuosity is a thing I could covet. But I think that Ben Dov's 'Open Reading' method is a helpful step in that direction. So also I would say with the various roles, etc. as you represent them. If it helps us tell the story, why not use it?! I think you've done good work, and I thank you for it. 

 

Tarot_Apprentice

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@Raggydoll, @Chariot, @Tarot_Apprentice,

 

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful feedback.

 

Raggydoll... that "skin lightening" information is very much on-point. I need to read that carefully and think about how the essay should be edited to take that into account. The white faces could mainly (or simply) be a depiction of the current fashion. I still think there's money to be made by bringing up masks, but it should be given proper weight and context.

 

 

 

 

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2 hours ago, BradGad said:

@Raggydoll, @Chariot, @Tarot_Apprentice,

 

Thanks everyone for the thoughtful feedback.

 

Raggydoll... that "skin lightening" information is very much on-point. I need to read that carefully and think about how the essay should be edited to take that into account. The white faces could mainly (or simply) be a depiction of the current fashion. I still think there's money to be made by bringing up masks, but it should be given proper weight and context.

 

 

 

 

In a way, the way they painted their faces was a mask. It was a way to become part of the right crowd and to make themselves seem a certain way (more virtuous, more refined - and probably, more clean 😊 ). But yes, I personally do think the earlier white skin tones would have been due to fashion and also to the printing process - making it quicker and cheaper. One other factor: color pigments. They would have been able to use the basic colors (green, blue, red, yellow) from pure pigments, but the pinkish skin tone would have had to be mixed. That would have required time, effort and probably more money. So maybe that played a role too? https://www.hisour.com/pink-color-in-history-and-art-26672/amp/


http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/artist-paints/renaissance-colour-palette.htm

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They would have been able to use the basic colors (green, blue, red, yellow) from pure pigments, but the pinkish skin tone would have had to be mixed. That would have required time, effort and probably more money. So maybe that played a role too?

 

That makes sense if they used all white for skin, but in a lot (most?) of the mid-1700s decks, including the Conver I focused on, they use white for the faces and pink for the hands and other exposed body parts, so they were mixing up some pink anyway. 
 

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