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Painting the Vasa & metalwork colours Options
#1 Posted : 05 April 2018 11:46:08

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The evidence for the colour scheme of the ship is the physical remains of paint still adhering to the wood, which has been sampled and analysed.

There are remains of the red background colour in several places. The pigment, like most of the pigments used in this period, are mineral in origin, and so bright, saturated colours were very common for paints if the right pigments could be found. Dyes for cloth in this period tended to be more subdued, since the colouring agents used tended to be vegetable.

The red in this case is a fairly bright red, approaching scarlet. The 1:10 Vasa museum model is currently painted with colours which they believe are the closest to what we have been able to analyse in hundreds of samples taken from the ship.


Where they have been able to analyse the paint scheme in detail, it is clear that the original sculptures were painted with highlights and shadows to enhance the detail and surface relief, not just solid colours.
When the museum's 1:10 model was first painted, the sculptor who made the carving's also painted them, but without highlights and shadows, so it was necessary to repaint the carving's with highlights and shadows.

The Vasa museum has only analysed paint remains on about 80 individual pieces of decoration, and from that extrapolated the overall paint scheme. They tried to get samples from at least one element in a group (thus sampled one of the 19 surviving Roman emperors from the beakhead very thoroughly), but they cannot guarantee that the group was entirely consistent in its painting. Therefore modellers have plenty of freedom and room for artistic freedom when painting the model decorations.

Note that many of the photos on the Vasa website were taken before the repainting, and thus do not have the same depth that the model does now.

Metalwork colours

Often this is an aesthetic choice, but if you are interested in the original metalwork colours, here is the info.

The guns were cast in a high-copper bronze and left unpainted, which oxidized within a year to a dull, metallic purplish-brown with bright highlights in areas of wear.

The rest of the metal fittings on the ship were in iron. The shipyard accounts suggest that iron work was blackened with a mixture of soot and linseed oil, and the gun carriages painted with this same mixture, effectively matt/satin black paint but not on the wheel treads.
One could expect iron fittings to rust and stain surrounding wood (oak turns black in the presence of iron salts). The bolt heads on the hull exterior were covered by the same tar used to protect the timber, which is a more effective coating than the black paint. Blackening your brass fittings would be an accurate representation.

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