Monday, February 7, 2011

Pastel and woad

I was browsing recently through a book called Southwest France - an Insight Guide published by APA Publications for the Discovery Channel - when I came upon an entry for the city of Toulouse. Toulouse enjoyed  a period of prosperity in the 15th and 16th centuries because of its monopoly on the export of woad, a deep-blue dye extracted from the woad plant, Isatis tinctoria. Woad was cultivated in the Lauragais farming country -  a triangle bounded by Albi, Toulouse, and Castelnaudery (home nowadays of the French Foreign Legion and famous for cassoulet -  bean stew). This area became known as the Pays de cocagne, which I always assumed was the land of Cockaigne. Not so. The word cocagne is from the word cocques - balls of concentrated dye. Toulouse merchant princes that made their fortune from the dye were known as les princes de pastel. Aurélien Fenouillet recorded a song called Ballade Tarnaise on his album Mon Albigeois, with lyrics by Jean-Claude Testarode, that refers to le Pays de Cocagne. When in France, look for this album - it may be found on the CD stands in the markets, and is a great musical souvenir of the holidays. (Jean-Claude Testarode has also penned a catchy song about Toulouse Lautrec.)
The Toulouse shop La Fleurée de Pastel, located in the 15th century Hotel Pierre Delfau, sells, not pastels and painting materials, but products dyed with woad, and books about Toulouse's short-lived pastel industry (the arrival of indigo towards the end of the 16th century sealed its fate.)
And the point of this post - pastel is the French word for woad! Pastel sec is pastel.

En feuilletant un livre intitulé Southwest France je suis tombé sur la ville de Toulouse. Toulouse a connu une période de la prospérité dans les 15ème et 16ème siècles en raison de son monopole sur le l'exportation du pastel, une teinture d'un bleu profond extraite de la plante du pastel, Isatis tinctoriaPastel a été cultivé dans le Lauragais - un triangle délimité par Albi, Toulouse, et Castelnaudery. Cette secteur est connu sous le nom de Cocagne, dont j'ai toujours pensé a l' pays de CockaignePas du tout. Le mot cocagne est dérivé du mot cocques  balles de colorant concentré. Les marchands qui ont fait leurs fortune de la teinture étaient reconnus comme les princes de pastel
Aurélien Fenouillet a enregistré une chanson Ballade Tarnaise sur son album Mon Albigeois, avec les paroles de Jean-Claude Testarode, qui se réfère au Pays de Cocagne. Achetez-le!
Le magasin La Fleurée de Pastel, situé dans le Hôtel Pierre Delfau, du 15ème siècle, vend, ni pastels ni matières de peinture, mais les produits teints au pastel, et des livres sur l'industrie pastel de courte durée (l'arrivée de l'indigo, vers la fin du 16ème siècle a scellé son sort.) 
Et le point de ce post - pastel est le mot français pour le tincture et pour Isatis tinctoriaPastel sec est le pastel des pastellistes.


  1. Hello from Toulouse ;-)
    I live in southwest of France, near Toulouse, in "le pays de cocagne"!!
    Tank your for your post and thank your for links of great great blogs of pastels...
    This is not the same pastels, but I also try to make some pictures with my pastels...
    Thank you again... and sorry for my school english ;-))

  2. Sorry for the delay - over a year, unusually tardy even for me, but I just looked at this post because Pastels Roché have just refreshed their website and the colours of a new blue range had me check this out.
    Anyway, check out Roché at