The painting would first be composed in grey and white, and then the colors, made with thin transparent glazes, would be added on top.
It became the most common background for the portraits of Rembrandt Van Rijn and for many of the paintings of El Greco, who used it to highlight the faces and costumes of the central figures.
The palette of Rembrandt was composed almost entirely of somber colors.
He composed his warm greys out of black pigments made from charcoal or burnt animal bones, mixed with lead white or a white made of lime, which he warmed with a little red lake color from cochineal or madder.
In Europe and the United States, surveys show that grey is the color most commonly associated with neutrality, conformity, boredom, uncertainty, old age, indifference, and modesty.
Only one percent of respondents chose it as their favorite color.
In antiquity and the Middle Ages, grey was the color of undyed wool, and thus was the color most commonly worn by peasants and the poor.It was also the color worn by monks of the Franciscan order, Cistercian Order and the Capucine Order as a symbol of their vows of humility and poverty.Franciscan monks in England and Scotland were commonly known as the Grey friars, and that name is now attached to many places in Great Britain.During the Renaissance and the Baroque, grey began to play an important role in fashion and art.Black became the most popular color of the nobility, particularly in Italy, France and Spain, and grey and white were harmonious with it.Grey was also frequently used for the drawing of oil paintings, a technique called grisaille.