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HMS Victory re-paint


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The first thing I need to point out - it is not April 1st!


As many will know, HMS Victory is undergoing a major refit and renovation at the moment. As part of this process, there has been some intense research to determine the exact colours she wore at Trafalgar. She has now received her new coat of paint, and this has left many somewhat surprised. Despite wearing the common yellow ochre for many years, her stripes are now a pale pink ("salmon", "peach", "pale red" depending on your perception). This is not a joke - the best estimate is this is the colour she showed in 1805. A smaller change is that the font used for her name on the stern will also be modified.


I guess this poses a challenge for all those models of Victory out there, especially those that have taken great pains to depict the ship as she was at Trafalgar. UK readers can see a TV report on the Meridian TV website, but I don't think that is available outside the UK.


I see sales of masking tape and pink paint rising sharply!

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Well, I guess it will take some getting used too, after we've known Victory previously with different shades of yellow and yellow ochre, but I imagine we'll get used to it. I'm actually getting to like it!


There's always that question in the back of the mind though – how are they certain it's correct? Shame we don't have a time machine. :rolleyes:


Hmmm. I now have new ideas for my Victory bow section! ;)

Edited by Stockholm tar
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Yes Dafi I think the French got beaten because they were too busy laughing to man the guns - who paints a warship pink? Good tactic Nelson!


A lot of People who have built Victory will now be crying in their beers. Yes I too now have an historically inaccurate black and yellow meter-long monolith on my bookcase



Edited by shipaholic
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I've still got that nagging doubt in my mind, if the new colour is correct why do so many contemporary paintings show warships of the era with pale yellow sides.


Given that they are already daubing the hull with the new shade, I wonder if the colour theme will extend to the lower masts.


I have less of an issue with the baby blue, because pastel colours were a feature of the Georgian /Regency era, and it's a short step from duck egg green to baby blue.


If the findings are truly correct in this as in many things Nelson was way ahead of his time. British warships were painted a fetching shade of 'Mountbatten' pink camouflage in the Med campaign of WW11. ;)



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Yes good point BE here is a painting supposedly done two years after Nelson's death showing Victory with yellow ochre stripes, and before the refit that closed in the stern galleries? Note the other ship's stripes are not as yellow, what's with that? Lots of unanswered questions.


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Pocock certainly was a contemporary artist and an experienced seaman whose depictions were much valued in naval circles for the accuracy of his work.


The painting in the previous post  is an imaginary compilation of ships in which Nelson served, and some of the tonal differences can be accounted for by shadow/light. By all accounts Pocock was an expert at mixing and achieving tones, albeit he was a self taught painter.


I don't have an issue with differing shades of  yellow, there are many contemporary written sources indicating  use of colours from pale primrose yellow to darker ochres.


At least now I have an excuse (if one were needed) to revisit Victory see the effect. I can also take in the newly opened Monitor M33 which lies adjacent to Victory. :)



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No good picture as it shows several ships that never encountered each other in those outfits: It is a commemorative picture of some of Nelsons ships, painted without being there, hence the anachronisms in Vic´s stern.


But BE is quite right. Me too I never saw the color from the research in any of the contemporary pictures apart from Santissima Trinidad. Would like to know more about the way, that they used to get to this result. The piece of mast - said to be original - shows almost nato olive/drab if still authentic.


Funnily, the pictures of my second visit of the Vic show a color like this, but i think the white balance was wrong then.




Or was it premonitory?!?


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A little more to inform, or perhaps confuse, you regarding the new colour scheme. This in depth piece is from the Victory's website and Andrew Baines, her curator and leader of the project:




Some food for thought here, I think, especially where he says that the new colour could be seen differently in changing light. Is this, perhaps, what has confused artists in the past? Interesting too regarding the new font for the name on the stern.




I would imagine they are going to include the galleries, when they get to them. Probably that's a bit more tricky!

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Even the old colour looked different depending on the light conditions, sometimes quite considerably so; on a bright day it looked much paler and the same went for the deck colour.


I can't really imagine that artists were confused by light conditions, after all light is their stock-in-trade, and representing light, and shadow, a main component of their art.


I'll be interested to see the new font style, wonder if it's similar to the one I used on my Victory model :rolleyes:



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I've looked at both video links.  I think, while the new colour may be a bit on the red side of things, and lighter in value than most of the older versions, they all could be called 'Naples Yellow' which is a mixture of yellow ochre and white.  It's also a matter of the colour sense, the rods and cones and how those stimulations are perceived by the viewer whether this new one is actually 'pink'.  I think it's close to the yellow shown in the opening shot of the hull in full sunlight.  Keep in mind also that we are seeing this through several filters, the video to TV, to computer, and computer to our particular monitor.  A small change in each could make for a large difference.

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Just to start this entry I would like to express that I appreciate very much the new results of the research, as every new input is always welcome. Of course, this "Hello-Kitty-meets-Happy-Pony"-version is quite outrageous for plenty model makers - but why? Simply because many of us are quite stubborn and fat headed and do not like changes, especially on iconic things like this. And that includes me too ;-)


Those were the correct colors in about 2003, samples I was given during the modelers tour on the ship ...




... I even do not remember what the green was used for :-)


The thing changing most is the ochre. So have a closer look.




But it is not that outrageous if looked closer. Jan Marten in our german forum posted the picture showing 50 shades of ochre ;-)




If you take the medium reddish tone and mix in more white than it was used before, you will get the "new" color, as suggested by the latest research.

I think the red one on the "summit" would create an even more exalted reddish tone.


But now some very personal thoughts about the latest research and why I am not rushing into repainting my model.


First of all: We are talking about a time of Pre-RAL, Pre-Pantone and Pre-other-Color-Charts.

My personal belief is, that the ships usually looked much more like patchwork color wise.


Just some reasons for my thoughts:

The ochre paint came as a barrel, how much did the paint match the other barrels of the delivery, not speaking of other charges from different provenances? If you look at the picture of the ochre, you really have 50 shades in there if not even more! What shade was meant to be painted, if yellow or red ochre was meant to be used?


Second the paint was mixed by hand by adding white - how much was in the eye of the master painter. Did he have the experience to match the existing paint, as wet paint looks different than the dry one? Also what were the differences if some pigments were stuck on the bottom of the barrel?


It is great that the research used old paint samples to determinate the original color, but where was it taken from? What is known, when it was exactly painted? As most of the outer hull was exchanged already multiple times, where was exact spot of the sample, was it outboards or inboards, was it the original 1803 main paint - with all its variations, when possibly every barrel was mixed by hand - or was it some 1804 repairs or late 1805 post Trafalgar patches? How close was the research to determine the exact timing?


Also how much were the studies taking care the possible changing of the color by time, saltwater, sun and interaction with newer paints?


On the Vic in P. there is a interesting exhibit in the middle deck: it is said to be part ot the original foremast. If the color would be also original, it shows itself today as a nice Nato-drab ;-)




Also if one looks at the contemporary paintings - as seen in the entries before - the english ships show commonly a more warm yellow ochre, while the french and spanish show all different shades from yellow ochre to pink and even red. But of course, this could be only an artists convention to pinpoint the english ships. However also Turner used the more yellowish tone, and I know his deficiencies in perspective and technical details, but he was master in the use of colors and he saw the ship in real life after returning from Trafalgar.




Too there are the carpenter expenses to have a closer look at. Goodwin had an interesting article in the Mariner`s Mirror about it, just to round up the discussion (thanks to Achilles for pointing it out in our german forum):



So I will leave you in the mess of your thoughts, to me it still is worth some nice discussions and that is the really interesting bit, as I like the idea to stir up the model makers minds and keep them flexible :-)


And if I say patchwork for the paint job, I really mean it, not as neat as usually shown, just another hint - would ever somebody have dared to build the real existing planking scheme of the Vasa on his model without having seen the original ? ;-)


So do not be upset about the new color, do see it as an opportunity to discuss this issue even further, who knows what even later "latest research" will show!


As a resumee:

I am skeptical in how far this examined color samples are applicable for the whole of the hull including trucks.

So find your own answers or tastes :-)


Cheers, DAniel

Edited by dafi
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Valid points Daniel, colour mixing in the 18th Century was more art than science, and when you add in the natural variations and the preferences of individual Captains to tweak the colour mix if they so desired, I don't think there is any need to rush to copy the latest trend.


When the Admiralty sanctioned the change from Red Ochre to Yellow Ochre for inboard works, many Captains started to paint the gun carriages Yellow also in advance of the official orders, I'm not sure the actual shade is that relevant.


ps; I believe the green colour was used on The Admirals Barge, Green was the most expensive colour of the age.



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Indeed, pigment was a varied beast - some powdered, some already in oil. Look at the ship's stores orders and you can get a feel for the relative colors applied. I believe it was the Goodwin article which pointed out that almost no red is shown being recieved, implication that it is over represented on models today. The ship's carpenter and his mates then mixed it to whatever ratio (2 parts A to 3 parts B or whatever). All by estimate, mind you, not precision scales or containers.


It was a very well designed process to obtain cores for paint analysis - intent was to get into some "original" wood via multiple samples. The twchnical committee which oversees these things (NOT the Royal Navy, by the way - they are tenants on the Victory) is very much aware of the importance of scientific rigour and historic accuracy. Among other changes, I suspect you shall see a great reduction in the amount of varnished wood in favor of "white wash" - see Goodwin for some analysis.

Edited by trippwj
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  • 1 month later...

In re the foremast piece:

  The white used was probably lead-based.  That turns green with age, hence the NATO drab.


In re expense of green paint:

  Beginning with the discovery of Prussian Blue pigment in the early 1700s, an inexpensive chemical color, blue-green, mixing with equally inexpensive yellow ochre would produce an inexpensive long-lasting green, thought the brightness of the sample I think is not possible with those two parent pigments.

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