Majorelle Blue Paint {a Marrakesh design secret}

Recently we received an e-mail from a client in London requesting authentic Majorelle Blue paint for his garden walls, the very same dazzling and exotic ultramarine blue that adorns the walls of Yves Saint Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh. 

Our client had searched everywhere without success for this unique and unusual blue, and no wonder. In the 15th century, this paint, made originally from crushed semi precious lapis lazuli stones, was more expensive than gold, and treasured by painters of Persian miniatures and Italian illuminated manuscripts.

Merchants from Venice imported lapis lazuli pigment from ancient Persia especially for painting the sacred blue robes of the Virgin and Child in medieval paintings. The mysterious pigment, impossible to reproduce, came from the mines of Badakhshan along the shores of the upper Oxus {Afghanistan}, a source known since antiquity. The Italians called the rare blue oltramarino “from beyond the seas.”

Indeed, Morocco might be called the country of vivid blues. And perhaps it was his love of the cobalt blue color on Moroccan tiles or the blue veiled men of the Tuareg tribe that inspired Jacques Majorelle, the French artist and creator of the Majorelle gardens, to develop a modern pigment that mimicked the lapis of antiquity

In his garden, later purchased by St. Laurent, Majorelle combined blue and yellow colors in a way that resembles a blue lapis lazuli stone flecked with yellow iron pyrites.

'In 1937 the artist created an ultramarine blue that was both bright and intense: known as Majorelle blue, he used it to paint the walls of his villa, and then the entire garden transforming it into a living tableau which he opened to the public in 1947.’  {*}

A similar blue tantilized 20th Century artist Yves Klein, who in 1960 attempted to capture the azure essence of the ocean sky over Nice.

'With the help of Parisian paint dealer Edouard Adam, he suspended pure ultramarine pigment—the most-prized blue of the medieval period— in a synthetic resin called Rhodopas, which didn’t dull the pigment’s luminosity like traditional linseed oil suspensions. Their much-vaunted patent didn’t apply to the color proper, but rather protected Klein’s works made with the paint, which involved rolling naked ladies in the new hue and transferring their body-images to canvas.'  { * } 

‘Majorelle Blue’ is still a rare find today, even if its not made from lapis any longer. We advised our client that for the price of shipping 20 liters of paint to London, he could book a plane ticket to Marrakesh and go on his own Marrakesh design adventure in search of his own supply of this remarkable color.

Ah, the jealously guarded design secrets of Marrakesh! Hang a hamsa on the door and give a dirham to the beggar with one eye! Yes, we are about to reveal where you, too, can buy Majorelle blue.

We told our client we would connect him with a guide who could take him to a small traditional souk-style shop (the kind with no formal address) which sells this unique blue paint. Or, he could simply stock up at the Boutique Majorelle, the Majorelle Museum gift shop which sells the original paint color used in the Majorelle gardens. 

If we get a few more special requests, we might decide to Import Majorelle Blue from Marrakesh. 


1. Shoes designed by YSL inspired by Majorelle Garden 

2. Miniature of Christ in glory holding a globe and blessing the Virgin (on the following page); miniature of the Virgin kneeling (towards Christ on the previous page), from the Address in verse to Robert of Anjou, King of Naples, from the town of Prato in Tuscany (the Carmina regia), illuminated by Pacino di Buonaguida, central Italy (Tuscany), c. 1335 - c. 1340, Royal MS 6 E. ix, ff. 4v-5r. {via}

3. Blue Veiled Tuareg 

4. Lapis Lazuli 

5.  Jardin Majorelle Elle Decor 

6. Yves Klein Anthropometry: Princess Helena 1960
  via Christies a-tribute-to-yves-klein on pinterest & MOMA 

7. Moroccan blue paint

8. 18 Bleu Majorelle Yves Saint Laurent

1 comment:

  1. Interesting! I also love Blue-Cobalt and found some information..."
    In 1824, the Societé d'Encouragement offered a prize of six thousand francs to anyone who could produce a synthetic variety not to exceed three hundred francs per kilo. The prize was not awarded for four years because all that was submitted to them were imitations based on cobalt or Prussian blue without regard for the analysis of the gem which was published in 1806 by Désormes and Clément. On February 4, 1828, the prize was awarded to Jean Baptiste Guimet who submitted a process he had secretly developed in 1826. Guimet's ultramarine was sold for four hundred francs per pound. In Paris a short while later, lapis lazuli cost between three to five thousand francs per pound at that time. http://www.webexhibits.org/pigments/indiv/history/ultramarine.html