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The Power of Colour

The Power of Colour

A Letter from Isabel

I am sure we are all staring at the same walls and looking for inspiration, solace or distraction… and I remembered the day we asked historic paint specialist Pedro Da Costa Felgueiras to create a coloured room at Connolly (pictured above) that would become an inspiration for us… a colour that would connect and thrill and that would work within the confines of a small early Georgian building. Possibly one of the most intensely satisfying and expensive decorating projects I have ever undertaken but it became an art form with the pigments hand mixed by Pedro and layered on in glazes then allowed to dry before the next layer could be applied. But whatever pictures we hang on it or objects we place with it – the result is magnificently uplifting!  It became the much loved Connolly Yellow Room.

The Power of Colour

Yellow the brightest colour of the visible spectrum, the colour of hope of sunshine and my favourite spring flowers from Daffodils to Primroses …  associated with light and knowledge and the flourishing of life.  In ancient Egypt it meant imperishable or eternal like the sun; in India it is considered a powerful repellent or antioxidant as found in turmeric and when sprinkled around the home, cleanses it.  In China, only the emperor and his household were permitted to wear yellow, and in Buddhism yellow signifies humility and rootedness with the earth. In the times of Plague, people painted their doors yellow to ward off the miasma…

"...the colour of hope of sunshine and my favourite spring flowers from Daffodils to Primroses.."


Felgueiras is an expert in Oriental and European lacquer and historic paint techniques.  A colour alchemist… a genius and an encyclopedia of historic techniques and colour but apart from being the best there is, hence Kew Gardens Pagoda and Strawberry Hill… Pedro also brings an excitement and a modernity to these old buildings. 

‘Your yellow, ‘Pedro says,’ is a match to the historic pigment know as ‘Kings yellow’.  It had this name as, due to the limitation of available paint technologies in the 18th century, bright colours were quite expensive to achieve, in particular this yellow.  The original colour was arsenic based but yours is arsenic free!  The Yellow at Connolly was achieved by using some modern and some historic pigments.  But the most important thing is that it was applied in various thin glazes and not as a solid colour!  A technique very much used in the old days to achieve a particular shade when a more special colour was desired.  This happened a lot on the work I did at Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill House.’

I recommend reading, John Gage’s Colour and Culture, a comprehensive and ground breaking analysis of colour in Western culture from the ancient Greeks to the late twentieth century. With originality and erudition, he describes the first theories of colour articulated by philosophers from Democritus to Aristotle and the subsequent attempts by the Romans and their Renaissance disciples to organize colour systematically or endow it with symbolic or religious power. Newton's analysis of the spectrum, Goethe's colour theory, and the theories and practices that have attempted to unite colour and music are among its intriguing topics.

And more specifically the beautifully illustrated book Yellow by acclaimed French colour theorist and philosopher, Michel Pastoureau, on the history of yellow from antiquity to the present.

Yellow Touches from Connolly