Art History Lab

The Timeless Elegance of Mauve: A Purple Hue with a Rich History

Have you ever wondered what mauve is or where it came from? Mauve is a unique shade of purple that has an interesting history.

In this article, we will explore the definition, origins, and variations of mauve. We will also touch on its history, including the expensive dye used by royalty, and how it became a popular color in fashion.

So, let us dive into the world of mauve. What is Mauve?

Definition and Description

Mauve is a color that falls between pink and violet on the color wheel. It is a shade of purple that has a bluish undertone, giving it a distinct appearance.

Mauve is named after the mallow flower, which has a similar color. It is also derived from the French word for mallow, “malva.” Mauve is a lighter shade of purple and is often used as a subtle and calming color for interior design.

Color Origins and Variations

Mauve has a unique origin story. The first recorded use of the word “mauve” was in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1859.

Before then, it was known as “fugitive” or “aniline” purple. The color was initially derived from plants, minerals, and insects.

However, the process was expensive, and the dye was exclusive to the wealthy. There are many variations of mauve, each with its unique tone and hue.

Lighter shades of mauve have a pinkish color, while darker hues have a more purple shade. Mauve also has a range of undertones, with some having a gray or brownish tint.

Its versatility makes it a popular color in fashion, interior design, and art.

History of Mauve Color

Origins and Expensive Dye

Mauve became a popular color among royalty in the 19th century due to the expensive dye used to create the color. It was derived from the madder plant, which was used to create red dye, and indigo plants, used to create blue dye.

The combination of the two created a beautiful and rich purple hue. Insects such as the cochineal insect were also used to create red dye, and when combined with indigo, it produced a similar rich purple hue.

The process of creating the dye was time-consuming and expensive, making it exclusive to the wealthy. The use of natural dyes for mauve continued until the discovery of synthetic dyes.

Synthetic Dye and Popularity

In 1856, William Henry Perkin, a 18-year-old English chemist, discovered an accidental method of creating a synthetic dye using coal tar. The dye he produced was a shade of purple, which he named “mauveine.” This new discovery revolutionized the dyeing industry.

Mauveine was cheaper and faster to produce, making it accessible to the masses. Mauve became a popular color in fashion, and Queen Victoria was a fan of the color.

Empress Eugenie also wore mauve to her daughter’s wedding, which sparked a trend and led to the “Mauve Decade” in 1890. The color was used extensively in interior design, clothing, and art.


In conclusion, Mauve is a unique color with an interesting origin story. Its history includes costly use of natural dyes, which made it exclusive to the wealthy, and the accidental discovery of synthetic dyes, which made it accessible to the masses.

Mauve’s versatility has made it a timeless color that continues to be popular in fashion, art, and interior design. So, the next time you come across mauve, you will have a better understanding of its definition, origins, and variations.

Color Meaning and Symbolism

Associations and Feelings

Mauve has several associations and feelings associated with it. Mauve is linked to mallow flowers, which symbolize femininity, renewal, and nostalgia.

The color itself is often associated with romance, luxury, and royalty, making it a popular color for weddings and high-end products. Mauve is also linked to youth, idealism, and purity.

These associations have made it a popular choice in cosmetic and skincare products aimed at a younger clientele.

Impressionist Art

Mauve and violet were popular colors in Impressionist art. Artists such as Monet used mauve in their paintings to capture the atmospheric effects of light and shadow in the sky.

The use of mauve and violet in these paintings was not just for aesthetic purposes but also for symbolism. For instance, violet was often used as a symbol of spirituality and royalty, while mauve represented the delicacy and softness of nature.

Shades of Mauve

Old Mauve

Old Mauve is a dark pinkish hue that is warm in color. It has been used since the Victorian era as an accent color in clothing and interior design.

It is named “old mauve” due to its popularity during this era, where it was a fashion staple. It was used in women’s blouses and dresses and was often paired with black or navy blue garments.

Mauve Taupe

Mauve Taupe is a darker, desaturated pink color. It is often used in interior design and as an accent color on walls or furniture.

Mauve Taupe is also a popular color in makeup, with the Raspberry Glace lipstick by Estee Lauder being a perfect example.

Crayola Mauve

Crayola Mauve is a soft red shade that falls within the violet color group. The color is often used in children’s art activities and coloring books, where it is known as Mauvelous.

Although it is a soft and playful color, its red undertones give it a warmth that sets it apart from other shades of purple.

Opera Mauve

Opera Mauve is a lighter desaturated pink that has a medium magenta shade. It is a popular color for interior design and is often used as an accent color, especially in bedrooms and bathrooms.

Opera Mauve falls within the violet color group and has a softness that makes it a perfect color for feminine spaces.

Mauve Desert

Mauve Desert is a dusty mauve color with warm undertones. It falls between a grayish red and a light purple and is a popular color for desert-inspired interior design.

Its muted tones give it a calming effect that adds warmth to a room without overwhelming it.

Chaise Mauve

Chaise Mauve is a softer, grayish red color that has a cozy feel to it. It is often used in furniture upholstery, especially in pieces that are meant to be snuggled up in such as chaises and sofas.

Chaise Mauve pairs well with other soft colors like cream and beige.

Twilight Mauve

Twilight Mauve is a dusty purple color with cool brownish undertones. It has a muted appearance that makes it a popular color for formal events such as weddings and balls.

Its subdued tones give off a sense of elegance and sophistication that makes it a popular choice for high-end products and branding. Conclusion:

Mauve is a unique color that has a rich history and symbolism.

Its versatility has led to the creation of different shades that have been used for various purposes, from fashion to interior design. The meanings and associations of mauve have made it a popular color for young and old, feminine and masculine, and high-end and casual products.

Mauve has a place in our world that is both soft and elegant, romantic and regal, and youthful and nostalgic.

Color Combinations with Mauve

Complementary Mauve Color

Mauve is often paired with complementary colors to create a bold contrast. One popular complementary color for mauve is tea green.

The green hue provides a refreshing and cheerful feel to the muted mauve. This color combination can be used in graphic design, interior design, and fashion.

The combination of these two colors creates a harmonious and balanced palette that is both elegant and calming.

Split Complementary Colors

Split complementary colors are colors that are adjacent to the complementary colors. When designing with mauve, pale yellow and mint green are two popular split complementary colors that complement the shade.

Pale yellow adds a bit of warmth to the cooler tones of mauve, while mint green adds a fresh and youthful feel. The combination of these softer shades with mauve is perfect for a feminine and romantic look.

Black and Grey

Mauve is often combined with black and grey for a sophisticated color scheme. This color combination is perfect for formal events, such as weddings, where the muted tones of mauve paired with the classic look of black and grey create an elegant ambiance.

Grey and mauve are often used interchangeably for a more subtle variation, while mauve and silver create a more regal and luxurious look.

Analogous Colors

Analogous colors are hues that are next to each other on the color wheel. Blue and mauve are two analogous colors that work together to create a cool and calming look.

The combination of these two colors is perfect for interior design and can be used to create a serene and tranquil atmosphere in bedrooms or bathrooms. The cool tones of blue and mauve also work well in graphic design, where they create a crisp and modern look.

Triadic Mauve Color Combinations

Triadic colors are hues that are equally spaced on the color wheel. Mauve is often combined with purple, yellow, and orange for an even and balanced look.

These colors work well together and create a bright and vibrant palette that can be used in fashion and graphic design. Adding a bit of gold to the mix can add a touch of glamor and sophistication.

Monochromatic Mauve Colors

Monochromatic mauve colors are tones that vary in depth and saturation but remain within the same color family. When designing with mauve, using various shades of the color can create a clean and soothing effect.

Layering different textures and patterns in different shades of mauve creates depth and interest in interior design and fashion.

Designing with Mauve

Mauve in Fashion Design

Mauve has become a trending color in fashion design, with designers using pastel lilacs and deeper purple hues in their collections. The combination of burgundy and mauve creates a vintage look that is both timeless and contemporary.

The color works well on several fabrics, including chiffon, silk, and velvet, making it a versatile choice. The burgundy and mauve combination can be used in both formal and informal clothing and creates an elegant look, perfect for evening wear.

Mauve in Interior Design

Mauve is a popular color in interior design, especially in bedrooms. The color works well with layered textures, vintage elements, and floral patterns, creating a feminine and romantic look.

Layering different shades of mauve in bedding, curtains, and wall paint provides depth and variation in the room. In the kitchen, mauve tiles, cabinets, and appliances provide a trendy look that is both warm and welcoming.

Mauve Paint Colors and Mixing

Mauve can be created by mixing red and blue hues together, adding white to create lighter shades, or adding alizarin red and cobalt blue to create a deeper hue. Titanium white is often used to lighten the color without altering the hue.

The mixing of shades allows for variation and depth in interior design, allowing for a customized look. Mauve paint colors can be used in accent walls, trim, and furniture, creating a cohesive and consistent look throughout the room.


Mauve is a versatile color that not only has an interesting history but also adds depth and variation to any design. The color combinations and shades provide various possibilities in fashion, interior design, and graphic design.

The color has continued to evolve, becoming a popular choice for many designers and consumers alike. Mauve, a unique shade of purple, has a rich history and a range of variations.

Its associations, symbolism, and color combinations make it a versatile choice in fashion, interior design, and art. From complementary and split complementary colors to monochromatic and triadic schemes, mauve offers endless possibilities for creativity.

Whether used in fashion to create a vintage look or in interior design to evoke a feminine and romantic ambiance, mauve adds depth, elegance, and sophistication to any design. Exploring the different shades and combinations of mauve provides endless inspiration and allows for personalized and captivating designs.

So, next time you consider incorporating color into your designs, consider the timeless and captivating beauty of mauve.

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