Although Marrakech is often known as ‘The Red City’ thanks to the pisé-cement Ramparts that surround the old town, once you enter the Medina it becomes clear that Marrakech actually holds a multitude of vibrant and bright colours. One such colour is the distinctive and infamously unique Majorelle Blue.
In 1924 the French artist Jacques Majorelle constructed the spectacular Majorelle Gardens, which is perhaps our favourite attraction in Marrakech. Within his garden, later purchased by Yves St. Laurent, Jacques Majorelle painted the garden walls, fountains and Riad, which now stands as the Berber Museum, in a distinct blue pigment. Indeed this clear, fresh, intense blue was so unique that the colour became trademarked under the (slightly egotistical) name Majorelle Blue. However, the colour was not simply a new creation for the Majorelle Gardens project. The inspiration for this colour came in the cobalt blue used in traditional Moroccan tiles, the majestic indigo found decorating the windows of Moroccan Kasbahs and the bright blue seen in the veils of the Tuareg tribe and Berber burnouses.
Jacques Majorelle’s pigment can also be traced back to the dazzling Ultramarine Blue of the lapis lazuli stones. In the 15th century lapis lazuli was a rare, hard stone that could only be found in a the mines of Badakhshan along the shores of the upper Oxus, known as modern-day Afghanistan. Once it was introduced to Europe via Venice, the Ultramarine Blue of the lapis lazuli quickly became more expensive than gold. It was so precious that, at one point, the Catholic Church even restricted the use of the colour blue to religious paintings depicting Mary, the Mother of Jesus. In his garden Majorelle combined his Ultramarine-influenced blue with hints of yellow in a way that resembles a blue lapis lazuli stone flecked with it’s yellow iron pyrites in an attempt to develop a modern pigment that mimicked the lapis of antiquity.
Although the azure essence of this unique Majorelle blue has, in turn, gone on to inspire a plethora of architects, artists and designers around the world, nothing beats seeing the dazzling colour in it’s birthplace. The Majorelle Gardens are a must-see for anyone visiting Marrakech. Perhaps, in this way, the Majorelle Blue itself is also a must-see for anyone visiting Marrakech.