An Interview with Dorothy Raphaely, Map Colorist

I am running a periodic series where I interview some of the professions collectors come across. My purpose is to shed light on what they do and how they work, especially for new collectors. For the third post in this series I interviewed Dorothy Raphaely, owner of Antique Map Coloring by Dorothy Raphaely.

Dorothy Raphaely has been in the business of coloring antique maps for twenty some years. Her training is as an artist, and by career a graphic and textile designer. Like many of us in the the world of antiquarian maps, she is motivated by passion, saying that collecting maps “pulled her in”.

Stoopendaal world map in hemispheres before and after coloring.
Stroopendaal, 1680, world map in hemispheres before and after coloring, with insets, by Dorothy Raphaely. (Photo: images: Raphaely; composition: Roehrich)

Dorothy immediately identifies herself as a “reluctant colorist” believing that not all maps should be colored. This is certainly in keeping with conventional thinking within collecting circles that a well colored map is often of higher value than an uncolored one, such is not always the case; further, poor coloring, not in true to the norms of the period, will devalue a map. Her clients are typically dealers, and as such, determining whether and how a piece should be colored is collaborative, however Dorothy says she will push back when she believes a piece should remain uncolored.

With online research on style, paper, and pigment, and considering her client’s preferences, Dorothy plans coloring in keeping with the map’s period. She applies sizing to the paper before coloring; she begins coloring at the neat line. Noting the variety of papers maps were printed on, she “often [doesn’t] know until [she puts] the brush to paper how it will behave.” And it is uncertainty such as this, or “fear” as she calls it, that she likes the least about her work. Dorothy explains that the hardest part of her work is in evenly coloring large areas, where “…blue pigment[s] in large areas like the sea are notoriously difficult to control for even distribution and no bleed through to the verso.”

Decorative maps are her favorite to color as they afford the most opportunity to showcase her skill.

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© Peter Roehrich, 2016