Colors Named After People

Ever heard of Wallis Blue, Scheele's Green or Mummy Brown? Read about some colors that have been named after people.

  • Scheele's Green was named after Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, who discovered that arsenic made bright green in 1775. Arsenic-based pigments became all the rage for wallpaper to clothing in the eighteenth century, and caused countless deathsopens a new window, and, perhaps, even the death of Napoleonopens a new window
  • Minion Yellow is named after the Minionsopens a new window. Surprised? Nah. 
  • Alice Blue, an ice-blue color, was named after Alice Roosevelt Longworthopens a new window, the daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt. He once said of Alice, "I can either run the country or I can attend to Alice, but I cannot possibly do both." 
  • Pantone has a standardized custom color to honor Prince opens a new windowcalled Love Symbol #2opens a new window.
  • Titian Red was named after the sixteenth-century Renaissance painter Titianopens a new window, who often painted redheads. 
  • Hooker's Green was named after William Hooker (1779-1832), a botanical illustratoropens a new window, who needed a green color that was exactly the color of leaves.
  • Mummy Brown is named after, you guessed it, mummies. Artists would mix up the remains of mummies to make paint. Luckily, it fell out of favor when people realized it was, you know, made up of actual corpsesopens a new window. Artist Edward Burne-Jones, once he realized that the paint truly was made from mummies, grabbed his tube and gave it a burial, though mummy brown paint could be bought up until 1964.
  • Isabelline, a pale champagne color, was used to describe the color of horses, but it has an off-putting legend. In 1601, the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia of Spain, vowed not to change her undergarments until the siege of Ostend was over, which lasted three years; another version is that Isabella I of Castile vowed not to remove her undergarments during the eight-month seige of Granada in 1491. Alas, the Oxford English Dictionary disproved both.
  • Wallis Blue was named for Wallis Simpsonopens a new window, the woman who Edward VIII abdicated the British crown for in 1936. Her wedding gown, designed by Mainbocher, was a light blue with a gray undertone, and the label came to call it Wallis Blue.
  • Fuschia was named after the flower, which was named for German botanist Leonhart Fuchs. And what is the difference between fuchsia and magenta? Magenta was an aniline dye originally named fuchsine, but in 1859, after the French victory at the Battle of Magenta, it was renamed.
  • Vandyke Brown was named for Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641), who often used this warm brown color. How did he achieve the brown? By mixing in actual dirt.
  • Perkins Mauve was discovered by accident in 1856 after a chemistry student, William Henry Perkin, tried a new method to make quinine, used to treat malaria. It didn't really work, but there was some purple sludge left over, and he patented his new color, originally called aniline purple and sometimes Perkin's purple. The "mauve measles" swept England, though it was actually the French who called it "mauve" after the mallow flower. 

Borrow The Secret Lives of Color to learn about the unique histories and stories between 75 colors. Stream Color: Color Theory and Color and Light to learn more about color or check out some art historyopens a new window books.

Read more at MentalFloss.comopens a new window or browse Pantone for even more colors and the Color of the Yearopens a new window.

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