Varieties of Verdigris

Varieties of Verdigris

The word “verdigris” comes from the Middle English vertegrez, from the Old French verte grez, an alteration of vert-de-Grèce, or “green of Greece”.  The modern French spelling  is vert-de-gris. What a  romantic and poetic linguistic lineage.
Verdigris is  the natural patina which forms on the surface of  copper, bronze, or brass as it is exposed to air and water, wind and weather over time.  In essence, it is the weathering, or tarnishing of these metals, and shows itself in a variety of green hues.  As a faux finisher, and decorative painter, the “look” can be achieved through the controlled (or not) application of chemicals to these metals, which form a blueish green “deposit’, or pigment.   Indeed, verdigris was used as a pigment to create greens in paintings and other art objects.  Until the 19th century, verdigris was the most vibrant green pigment (paint colorant) available.  It’s earliest known use was in the 14th Century.

The other way of creating a verdigris finish. i.e., the look of verdigris, is by the simple or not so simple, application of green and other-hued paints manipulated over a base coat. This method, to my way of thinking, is by far the more fun, as  a virtual universe of verdigris can be created.  The effect of painted verdigris is by and large controllable, a claim which cannot always be made for chemical reactions.

The vibrant, yet natural-looking verdigris finish above and below  was created by manipulating one custom-mixed hue of green over an exterior latex base coat: Benjamin Moore’s “Pueblo Brown 2102-30”.  The “verdigris” color is one part Benjamin Moore “Pear Green 2028-40” and three parts “Blue Spa 2052-40 “, drybrushed over a completely dry surface.

The verdigris color is wiped off is some areas, leaving a strie effect, and accentuating the texture of the base coated metal.  The surface textures, shifts of plane, and interplay between base and top colors offer enough variety to make the treatment visually interesting, and believable enough for passers-by to comment on the “copper“!

A verdigris treatment is often associated with copper, but as discussed above, also works with both bronze and brass.  On the door above and below, the client wanted a loose  (“messy” as she termed it!) look, that nonetheless complimented the charming building, and worked with the teal shutters and trim detail.  As the kick plate, address numbers, door knob, and mailboxes are a bronze hue, (as well as details of the light fixture), Benjamin Moore “Aged Bronze 231” was used as a base coat, with three blue to green hues dry-brushed over it to create the effect.

The bright golden-bronze hue provides a nice contrast to the cooler yet still warm greenish-blue flat exterior latex paints layered and manipulated over the darker base.  The textures  as well as the colors had to work in tandem to create a complete, coherent picture, “messiness’ not withstanding!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The rails above were base painted in a deep blackish green, Benjamin Moore “Black Forest Green (Exterior ready-made)” latex, then four more colors were applied consecutively over  the base painted surface. First, the coppery-toned Benjamin Moore “Suntan Bronze 1217” was dry-brushed sparingly, then “Cypress Green 509”, followed by “Garden Oasis 699” were stippled,. (All Benjamin Moore exterior latex colors.) Finally, a touch of the custom “Blue Spa 2018-40” and “Pear Green 2052-40” mix mentioned above was added as a subtle accent. The application and layering of five colors in total adds depth and detail to the final finish.

As the balcony railings are partially obscured by trees, and the Clients were less concerned about their appearance,  we opted to use only the two softer greens, “Cypress Green – 509” followed by “Garden Oasis 699” stippled over the same ready-made “Forest Green” base coat.  Because three of the five colors in the steps railings are the same, the color impression looks the same from a distance, an effect we wanted to achieve.

It’s interesting that verdigris, an actual effect of tarnishing and oxidation processes, can result is such  vivid green, teal, and even turquoise colors, as well as beautiful, variegated textures and patina.  It begs the issue of the value, aesthetic or otherwise, of antiquing, aging, even decay.  For what better purpose can we create art, decor and deign, then to both uplift, and deepen the human spirit by raising questions  of beauty and mortality, and the possible connections between the two?

What effect, finish, treatment or application, verdigris or otherwise has touched you with its beauty or other wise lately?  What has caused you to contemplate aesthetics…or, life’s big questions?  How about the relationship between the two?

If you feel so inspired, please share it with us here.  We love to hear from you.  Remember, we are all traveling through this thing called Life, together. Here’s to beauty…in all it’s forms.

 

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Lovely work, Debra! Verdigris finishes remind me of the past. They ooze history. From old European church steeples to weathered statues in the park — I see them and wonder how long it took to oxidize and achieve that “look.” The metal was slowly oxiding while the world hurried along around them…there’s a quiet stillness about them.

    • Thank you for checking this out, Nance…and nice pf you to take the time to comment…and from your architectural and art historical perspective! It is so interesting that the tarnishing process can create not only beauty, but ambiance…

  2. Such an interesting post, Debra!! Loved the information. You’re awesome!!

  3. […] is  the natural patina which forms on the surface of  copper, bronze, or brass as it is exposed to air and water, wind […]


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