Friday, December 12, 2014

Color Highlight - Red: Beyond the Holidays!


The color red was one of the first colors used by artists in the upper Paleolithic Age most likely because sources for this and other natural pigments like white and black were readily available.  The color red has several sources. These include red ochre (a mineral found in nature) that contains iron oxide, as well as specific insects like the female Cochineal and the Kermes, a scale insect found in Mediterranean regions. The plant world is a source of red dye too. The Madder plant has tiny yellow flowers and grows in Europe and the Middle East where India has used it for centuries to make red dye.

Red has been more than a color for artists who used it to express danger, sacrifice, passion, anger, happiness or pride. Red is the hair color of 1 to 2% of people in the world, the color of certain birds the color of poisonous snakes. It is also a warning color for insects like the Lady Bug and much more.
In Ancient Egypt red was a symbol of life, health and victory and  also used in prayer to the god Isis to protect from evil.  The word "red" (as used in place of words like destruction and harm.) At the same time, red was used in cosmetics and tomb murals as a skin color for men. Sometimes kings, queens and other people with high status dyed their hair red as a sign of beauty, wealth, and power.



In Ancient Rome, Tyrian purple was the color of the Emperor, but red had an important religious symbolism. Romans wore togas with red stripes on holidays, and the bride at a wedding wore a red shawl, called a flammeum. Red was used to color statues and the skin of gladiators. Red was also the color associated with the army. Roman soldiers wore red tunics, and officers wore a cloak called a paludamentum which, depending upon the quality of the dye, could be crimson, scarlet or purple. In Roman mythology red is associated with the god of war, Mars.  The vexilloid of the Roman Empire had a red background with the letters SPQR in gold. A Roman general receiving a triumph had his entire body painted red in honor of his achievement.  The Romans liked bright colors, and many Roman villas were decorated with vivid red murals.

After the Western Roman Empire fell, and the Byzantine Empire came to the fore, the princes of Europe and the Roman Catholic Church decided to take the color and use it to project majesty and authority. It was a signature color worn by Roman Catholic Cardinals.  It was used in banners by Emperor Charlemagne and for the shoes we wore on his coronation.  Red clothing was worn by merchants, artisans, and townspeople especially during holidays and special occasions.  While people of wealth wore clothing dyed red from kermes or carmine (carmine acid found in female scale insects),  the red townspeople wore tended to be made from the madder plant.   Another popular shade of red during these times was called Brazilian and came from Sapanwood trees that grew in India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. Brazilwood that is similar and found in South America was also used to make red dye. Not only was it a  popular export from the region, it gave the name to the nation of Brazil.


In Renaissance times, red was used by artists to draw attention to their work.  In most instances it was used to depict the cloak of Christ, his mother Mary or other important figures.  Also, trade routes were opened to the New World, Asia, and the Middle East. These routes imported lots of varieties of red pigment and dye into Europe where guilds of dyers specializing in a particular color or type of dye began.  The Rubia plant was regularly used  to create a dye for the common people. A different red dye called Kermes dyed  the clothing of the wealthy, and Polish Cochineal or "Blood of Saint John" to create a high quality and expensive red dye for the very wealthy.

Three centuries later red became a symbol of revolution in France signifying liberty and personal freedom, and was used by the Jacobins and other radical parties of the time.  Many of them wore a red Phyrgian (liberty) cap modeled after caps worn by freed slaves in Ancient Rome.  During the Reign of Terror in the 18th century, women wore red caps around the guillotine to celebrate executions.  Even the French flag was changed to red, but after the Reign of Terror was over the traditional flag colors of red, white and blue were restored.

In Ancient China red was an important color in religion, culture, industry, fashions and court ritual. Silk was dyed red as early as the Han Dynasty 25-220 B.C.   China had a monopoly on red silk until the 6th century A.D. when it was introduced into the Byzantine Empire and in the 12th century to Europe.


Red played an important role in Chinese philosophy. It was believed that the world was composed of five elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth and that each had a color. Red was associated with fire. Each Emperor chose the color that his fortune-tellers believed would bring the most prosperity and good fortune to his reign. During the Zhou, Han, Jin, Song and Ming Dynasties, red considered a noble color, and it was featured in all court ceremonies, from coronations to sacrificial offerings, and weddings.


 Red was also a badge of rank. During the Song Dynasty (906–1279), officials of the top three ranks wore purple clothes.  The officials of the fourth and fifth ranks wore bright red; those of the sixth and seventh wore green; and the eighth and ninth wore blue. Red was the color worn by the royal guards of honor and the color of the carriages of the imperial family. When the imperial family traveled, their servants and accompanying officials carried red and purple umbrellas. Of an official who had talent and ambition, it was said "he is so red he becomes purple.

Red would become a symbol of the 20th century American Revolution, and also a symbol in Eastern Europe's Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.  Even China used red during the Cultural Revolution of 1949. In Russia's U.S.S.R., red became the color symbolizing communism along with Vietnam and Cuba. On a pleasant note, red was a symbolic color used by artists such as Matisse of France and American artist Mark Rothko.

As you can see, red has quite a rich history, but we haven't yet touched on red used for my favorite accessory...clip on earrings!  These can be found throughout the Cliptomania website in categories such as Tomorrow's Heirlooms, My Favorite Color, and Pretty & Petite.  There is no way to avoid shades of red, in the most pleasant sense that is!  So if you are a fan of various shades of red or just like all colors of the rainbow come by where we have nearly every color one would want.