Amedeo Modigliani, Reclining Nude, 1917
玛丽·斯图尔特（Mary Stuart）成为苏格兰女王（Queen of Scotland）时，她才六天。从那一刻起，她的宝贵尸体被守卫着，像棋盘上的棋子上的典当一样从一个城堡到另一座城堡。如果她在1548年没有努力在法国长大，也许他们会爱她，但也许他们没有。也许玛丽注定要总是因为她的女性和天主教而感到讨厌。当她十八岁时回到新教苏格兰的新教徒时，她已经在法国法院度过了十年，并为精心制作的礼服和华而不实的珠宝增添了品味。根据某些说法，她高大而优雅，美丽，但这并没有使她对普通百姓的爱。当玛丽穿着精美的蕾丝和天鹅绒和精心制作的小块而四处奔波时，她的人民被告知上帝要他们穿着贞洁，清醒的衣服。刺绣被认为是“不像”，“衣服中的浅色和变体色调，如红色，蓝色，黄色等，宣布头脑的轻度”。取而代之的是，苏格兰人被告知穿着“坟墓色”的简单面料，例如“黑色，赤褐色，悲伤的灰色或悲伤的棕色”。
Portrait of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, c. 1500s
This depressing list comes from a summary of the 1575 General Assembly of the Kirk, recorded in the Domestic Annals of Scotland. Although the upper classes continued to wear silks and velvets and pretty bright dresses, most people wore their sad rags. It was more practical, to be dressed in dark gray and black and brown. Life for the lower classes was hard. The clothing reflected this fact.
And yet, thrown in with those drab colors was russet. In this context, russet was both a general chromatic descriptor and a specific type of rough spun cloth, colored with a mixture of woad (a member of the cabbage family that was used to make a blue-gray dye) and madder (a similarly yellow-flowered herb whose roots could be turned into a pinkish-brown dye). Russet wasn’t a bright color, but it was at least more cheerful than “sad grey,” it had a bit more life than black. While Mary, Queen of Scots reportedly wore vivid scarlet under her black mourning clothes, her people dressed like dead leaves and gray stones. At their most vibrant, they could wear the color of rust, of dirty root vegetables, of aging fox fur.
Peter Breugel the Elder, The Return of the Herd (November), 1565
It may sound like I dislike russet, but I don’t. Over the last decade, I have learned to appreciate the textures and rhythms of the later months of the year. Russet is the color of November in Maine. The color that emerges when all the more spectacular leaves have fallen: the yellow coins of the white birch, the big, hand-shaped crimson leaves of the red maple, the papery pumpkin-hued spears of the beech trees. The oaks are always the last to shed their plumage, and their leaves are the dullest color. They’re the darkest, the closest to brown. But if you pay attention, you’ll see that they’re actually quite pretty. Russet is a subtle color, complicated by undertones of orange and purple. Indeed, according to some color wheel systems, “russet” is the name given to the tertiary color created by mixing those two secondary colors. Its only companions in this category are slate (made from purple and green) and citron (made from green and yellow). Like russet, citron and slate occur often in the natural world. Our Earth is a blue marble if you get far enough away, but from up close, it’s so very brown, so often gray.
Unknown artist, botanical illustration c. 1905 (© wikimedia commons)
这也许可以解释为什么许多文化认为黄褐色and similar dull reds as neutral hues, akin to the monochrome scale of white, black, and the innumerable shades between. True reds, the crimsons and vermilions and scarlets, have historically been associated with fire, blood, and power. InRed: The History of a Color, Michel Pastoureau explains that, for thousands of years, red was “the only true color.” He continues, “as much on the chronological as hierarchical level, it outstripped all others.” In ancient Greece, high priests and priestesses dressed in crimson, as did (they imagined) the gods themselves. In contrast, the dull reds, the brown reds, have been understood as “emblematic of peasantry and impoverishment,” claims Victoria Finlay inAn Atlas of Rare & Familiar Colour. Finlay files red ocher among the browns—the ruddy pigment used in the caves of Lascaux—which is perhaps where it belongs. Perhaps that’s where russet belongs, too. But it’s not entirely clear. Paging through both books, I see reds and browns together more often than not. They’re close, those hues. A generous eye can see the fiery warmth blazing beneath the brown, the homely walnut emerging from the red.
温斯洛·荷马（Winslow Homer），福克斯·亨特（Fox Hunt），1893年
It seems likely that russet, as a word, is an offshoot of red (Old FrenchRoussetfrom Latinrussus, “reddish”). But russet means more than red-like, red-adjacent. It also means rustic, homely, rough. It also evokes mottled, textured, coarse. The word describes a quality of being that can affect people as well as vegetables. Apples can be russet, when they have brown patches on their skin. Potatoes famously are russet; their skin often has that strange texture that makes it impossible to tell where the earth ends and the root begins. There are russet birds and russet horses—it’s an earthy word that fits comfortably on many creatures. For Shakespeare, it was a color of poverty and prudence, mourning and morning. In爱的劳动失去了，Biron想象没有更精细的事物，没有丝绸和Taffeta的生活，这是为了证明自己的爱而牺牲的生活。他的pen悔的颜色？俄罗斯。
and I here protest,
经过this white glove;—how white the hand, God knows!—
在Russet Yeas和诚实的Kersey Noes中：
And, to begin, wench,—so God help me, la!—
My love to thee is sound, sans crack or flaw.
Just a few decades after this was written, in a country not too far away, Peter Paul Rubens was painting with brilliant crimson and shocking vermilion. Rubens was a devout Roman Catholic, a religion that embraced sumptuous fabrics and rich colors. A generation later, another northern painter would rise to prominence: Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn. While Catholic Rubens loved shocking reds, rich blues, and even sunny yellows, Protestant Rembrandt painted with a far more restrained palette. Many of his most famous paintings (including his self portraits) are predominantly brown and gray. And when he did use color, Rembrandt very often reached for russet, auburn, fulvous, and tawny. Reds that leaned brown, and browns that leaned red. Sometimes, he brought in a splash of crimson to tell the viewer where they should focus (the vibrant sash inNight Watch，斗篷浪子), and sometimes he let soft, misty yellow light bathe his bucolic landscapes. His work was earthy, imbued with the quiet chill of early November.
Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, The Return of the Prodigal Son, c.1668
我一直瘦king on russet lately, this color of oak and Rembrandt and austerity. Its terra-cotta earthiness fits my mood. I’m hunkering down for winter, making paprika-spiked stews and big pots of beans with bacon, always dutifully freezing a portion for later. I’ve been readying myself not for hibernation, but for months of social isolation. According to both theFarmer’s Almanac常识，对于北美来说，这将是一个艰难的冬天。好像受到名人的启发fat bears of Katmai，我注意到自己捆绑了，散装，伸手穿着生锈的土色，伸手去拿厚而温暖的衣服。我母亲总是喜欢一个受约束的调色板。她最近给了我一大袋她不再想要的毛衣，其中三个是俄罗斯。其中一个是缆线编织的羊毛高领毛衣，来自90年代，但可能来自七十年代。可能是从2020年秋/冬（“”brown is the new black,” proclaims巴黎时尚）。确实可以从任何十年开始。它具有永恒的妈妈能量，我发现自己需要越来越多地引导。
“Tab details on suit ensemble,” New York Public Library Digital Collections.
I’m not alone. There’s a certain type of influencer on the rise, one that has embraced my mother’s color palette of auburn, terra-cotta, russet, and beige. These seventies-styled babes fill my feed with macramé plant hangers, comfortable linen pants, and seemingly bewitched, bottomless closets filled with eco-friendly, transparently produced leaf-colored clothing. Call them cottage-core or cozy-core or whatever you like—I call them inspiring. These are women who have become very good at figuring out what light makes their small spaces look roomy, what angles make their baggy outfits look chic. They are people who have managed to style their thrift shop ceramics with tasteful stacks of books, chosen for the color of their spines and the way they sit on the shelves. They are people who can make the most of what they have, turn pixels into money, brown into russet.
Fashion by Louise Chéruit – automobile coat, illustration by Pierre Brissaud, published in La Gazette du Bon-Ton, 1913
Wladyslaw Strzeminski, Kompozycja architektoniczna, 1929
我听到类似的命令响应通过我们的曲线nt events now. The top echelons of power are asking the lowest to support them wholeheartedly, to play the part of the willing serf, the peasant in russet while they go about in gaudy red ties that gleam polyester-bright on white dress shirts. We’re living in a time of great economic inequality and instability. In the news, there are reports of white nationalist groups advocating for a Civil War, radio pundits talking about “blood on the streets,” and a rapidly growing cult that slavishly begs their messiah to give them a sign, any sign, so they can begin their purge. I disagree vehemently with all of these groups, yet they’ve succeeded in creating a sense of foreboding in me that I can’t shake, no matter what I do. I see the same thunderheads gathering. I share the dread. I can ward it off, for brief moments, by focusing on beauty. The fear is still there, under the awe, under the gratitude, but for now, I walk around outside with my head tilted up, to better see the leaves and the blue sky behind. For now, I notice the shades of brown that have been there long before us and will be there still.
Read more of Katy Kelleher’s color stories here.
Katy Kelleher is a writer who lives in the woods of rural New England with her two dogs and one husband. She is the author of手工制作的缅因州.