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The woad, the natural blue pigment

The woad (isatis tintoria) is a herbaceous crucifer in the family Brassicaceae with lanceolate leaves, until the seventeenth century extensively cultivated and traded in many parts of Europe to produce blue dye pigment for dyeing fabrics. The procedure for extracting the color was long and complex. The harvest of fresh leaves from May to September, followed by the crushing performed by the farmer himself and the extraction of the pigment that was subsequently used in dyeing plants.

Guado Urbino, the discovery of a lost tradition

In 1200, the fashion of the blue began in France. Besides the dominant red, white and black, new colors were employed aimed at a visual and immediate recognition and belonging to social class, religion or useful discrimination of "dangerous" subjects. Among those colours the blue had many symbols associated. Due to the preciousness of the pigment, it becomes fashionable, a "status simbol" that lasted in Europe from 1200 to 1600. In the seventeenth century with the "first globalization" the woad cultivations were abandoned in favor of the indigo of Asian origin (less expensive and with a more intense coloring property). The blue color remained dominant but the cultivation of the woad disappeared. In the Apennine territory near Urbino, in recent years, more than 50 ancient woad millstones have been discovered, today a heritage of industrial archeology and evidence of the strategic importance of the area for the cultivation of the plant and the commercialization of the pigment. The millstones were large stones wheels driven by the strength of the mules. The obtained mash was packaged in the form of "balls" called cockaignes (from which the common saying ""the land of Cockaigne"") then crushed and placed by the dyers to macerate in urine and vinegar. This fermentation process allowed to obtain the woad pigment suitable for dyeing uses. In addition to the millstones, important artifacts were found by Don Corrado Leonardi, an historian of the Marche region, such as fourteenth-century altar cloths, descripted in important paintings such as the Leonardo’s “Last Supper” and the Ghirlandaio’s “Cenacle of San Marco”.
Guado Urbino, trough the application of the antique pigment in articles of local handicrafts, proposes its magic, bringing to light the European pigment forgotten for centuries.

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The natural blue pigment finally returns in Urbino after 400 yearsm until the XVII century the solely blue in Europe, wealth of the Duchy of Urbino in the Renaissance.

A particular shop that propose a new commercial offering based on a single pigment: the woad, promoting its knowledge and history. The woad, also known as the blue gold of Montefeltro, is proposed in the form of a pigment or applied to original handcrafted products. In the Guado Urbino shop (in Urbino, via Mazzini 50) Alessandra proposes products with a common denominator: the woad blue. For sale: pure pigment, clothing accessories, foulard and stoles in cotton and wool silk, soap, hats, bijoux, frames. The products on sale represent the local crafts' tradition as a unique and distinctive expression opposed to modern and globalized serial productions. Guado Urbino rediscovers traces of dyeing techniques of the ancient artisan textile and pictorial heritage, proposes the fascinating pigment in all its magic and possible applications. The shop, a magical wunderkammer, also rich in historical references, in the fascinating historical center of the city of Urbino is a unique place in Italy that tells of nature, forgotten economies and cultivations, territory, art, local history and industrial archeology.

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