Exactly what color is French blue?
Seems I made the silly mistake in assuming it was one definitive shade of bluish-grey; what I found is it's as nuanced as the perfect shade of white in a sea of stone, cream and eggshell. The range of French blue seems to span a spectrum from cornflower lavender to steely azure to a rich royal blue.
In fact, France's history and association with the color blue is as rich and bold as the pigment itself. French blue is also known as French ultramarine, a deep vivid blue manufactured using a process invented in France in the 18th century. Because genuine ultramarine using the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli was so expensive (more costly than gold), the Societé d'Encouragement pour L'Industrie Nationale offered a prize to anyone who could synthesize the color using less costly materials; four years later, French chemist J.B. Guimet was awarded 6000 francs and ultimately ultramarine became one of the most significant color discoveries in the history of artist pigments.
Another particular shade of French blue, Le Bleu de France was the name synonymous to the Hope Diamond, the famed 45.52 carat gem initially obtained as a crudely cut stone by the French merchant traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier in the late 1600s and sold to King Louis XIV. The diamond's color has been described as intense steely blue, a beautiful violet and a fancy dark greyish-blue, to name a few.
Most significant though, Bleu de France is the color traditionally used to represent France, imbued in the late monarchy's coat of arms as the background setting for the golden fleur-de-lis and the color symbolizing vigilance, truth, loyalty and justice in the country's national Tricolor flag.
But enough history... I simply wanted to find a warm French blue for my dining room.
So did I ever find the elusive French blue I was looking for? ... Enter Annie Sloan, a trained painter with over 40 years of experience in the world of paint and color. She developed her own line of signature decorative paint called Chalk Paint in 1990; they come in a fabulous array of colors, one of which is Aubusson blue (above), which she describes as a "beautiful deep grey blue found on the classic 18th and 19th century Aubusson rugs from France. It is an elegant colour that works well with many colours as it is a dark neutral." When I think of French blue, this is it! Two of her books, Creating the French look and Work Book look absolutely enticing...