Some magazines never disappoint. And Matador is one of them. Its latest issue, R, offers an article written by David J. Mabberley on the world’s first “Pantone” colour system.
The first Pantone colour system?
The title of the article alone is a bold statement of intent, apart from being an ingenious way to refer to the enigmatic colour chart created by Czech naturalist Thaddäus Haenke at the end of the 18th century.
This notebook, consisting of four folded prints, was used by the naturalist to chromatically encode and identify the flowers of the world. Part of the archival collection of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Madrid, the chart features nearly 2,500 colours.
According to Mabberley, at that time, colour charts were the only way to standardize colours used in botanical paintings, a practice which would consequently become a scientific and formal pursuit in its own right. Another one of the great virtues of Haenke’s captivating little notebook – originally inspired by the notebooks of Austrian botanical illustrator Ferdinand Bauer and containing a “scant” 140 colour shades – is how it represents the perfect union between art and science. Or, in other words, a marriage between the rigorous precision of watercolour painting and meticulous observation.
Haenke was an adventurous soul, joining the expedition commanded by Alessandro Malaspina as a scientist in pursuit of floral colours. It was a voyage to the Pacific that began in 1789 and ended in 1794. But let’s not give too much away – it’s now the reader’s turn to find out more about the serendipitous life of the “first Pantone colour system” in the well-researched article by Mabberley (the beautiful accompanying images alone are well worth the price of Matador magazine, in this issue on Botany).
Matador Issue R, on Botany (www.clubmatador.com)