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History Of Color And Symbolism English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 5502 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Color is recognized as such through our sense of sight, much like a scent is identified through our sense of smell. For example, when our noses detect a chocolate scent or a strawberry scent, many different molecules form the combination that the nerve cells in our noses identify as either “chocolate” or “strawberry.” Similarly, many combinations of wavelengths form colors. (Read more about how our minds see color.) The nerve cells in our eyes interpret all combinations of light as being red-or-green, and yellow-or-blue. These are the four primary colors for the mind. Among the combinations of these 4 primaries, we perceive a lot of variation between yellow and red (the oranges) and between blue and red (the purples). If the intensity of the wavelengths is more similar, then we percieve neutrals. Lots of light yields whites, and very little light the blacks. In the natural world, there are a lot of neutral tones based on browns because of the abundant iron in the earth, and so we also include a family of browns above.

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Painters didn’t always have pigments for each color. In fact, the historical choice of primary colors was limited by the availability of suitable pigments, which until the late 19th century was lacking in vivid greens or purples. In lieu of bright greens and purples, pigment mixtures (for example, mixing blue and yellow) have been used since ancient Greece in order to get closer to a specific hue.

The History of Purple

The word “purple” comes from the Old English word “purpul,” which originates from the Latin “purpura” and from the ancient Greek “porphyra.” This was the name of the Tyrian purple dye manufactured in classical antiquity. In human color psychology, purple is associated with royalty and nobility because Tyrian purple was only affordable to the elite. Byzantine empresses gave birth in the Purple Chamber of the palace of the Byzantine Emperors. Therefore, being named Porphyrogenitus (“born to the purple”) marked a dynastic emperor, as opposed to a general who won the throne through effort.

Purples are the shades of color occurring between red and blue. On a chromaticity diagram, the line connecting the extreme spectral colors red and violet is known as the “line of purples.”

Some confusion exists concerning the color names “purple” and “violet.” Purple is typically defined as a mixture of red and blue light, whereas violet is a specific spectral color (approximately 380-420 nm).

Purples can be formed by mixing red and blue pigments, but the first truly violet pigment was cobalt violet, prepared in 1859.

Purples and magentas are “colors” we see, but they do not correspond to pure wavelengths of light. On a chromaticity diagram (a CIE Luv diagram), spectral colors correspond to pure wavelengths of light, and wrap from the top and left ledges. On the bottom right diagonal, the line connecting the extreme spectral colors red (630-740) and violet (380-420 nm) is known as the “line of purples.”

The first synthetic dye was discovered by a teenager in 1856, who accidentally made a purple dye that would soon become the height of fashion in Victorian England. William Henry Perkin originally set out to discover a synthetic alternative to quinine. As he cleaned up his experiments with aniline, he noticed a thick black residue at the bottom of a flask. After further experimentation with diluting the sludge, Perkin realized that the mixture could be used to dye silk and that the dye would retain its color. Until that point, purple dyes always faded fairly quickly. Perkin initially called his new dye “Tyrian Purple,” but it was later known as “mauve.” Mauve quickly became all the rage in English high fashion

Symbolism of the Color Blue

Blue is the color of sky and water. From the time of the ancient Egyptians, the blue depths of water personified the female principle, while sky blue was associated with the male principle. Blue is the color of all heavenly gods and stands for distance, for the divine, and for the spiritual.

Blue is also the symbol of fidelity. Blue flowers, such as forget-me-nots and violets, symbolize faithfulness. According to an old English custom, a bride wears blue ribbons on her wedding gown and a blue sapphire in her wedding ring. Tiny flowers of blue speedwell are part of the wedding bouquet.

In the English language, blue sometimes refers to sadness. The phrase “feeling blue” is linked to a custom amongst old sailing ships. If a ship loses her captain, she would fly blue flags when returning to home port.

In German, to be “blue” (blau sein) is to be drunk. This derives from the ancient use of urine (which is produced copiously by the human body after drinking alcohol) in dyeing cloth blue with woad or indigo. However, the color blue also had other associations in Germany. The Blue Flower was the symbol of German 19th century Romanticism, thanks to the novel fragment Heinrich von Ofterdingen, by the German poet Novalis.

Short History of Blue Pigments

The first blue pigment was azurite, a natural mineral. Soon thereafter, Egyptians manufactured Egyptian blue, which quickly spread throughout the ancient world. During the Middle Ages, the recipe for Egyptian blue was lost, so azurite and expensive ultramarine from Afghanistan were the only sources of blue available. In the 15th century, smalt, a finely ground blue glass, came into use for painting. The first pigment produced due to the advancement of modern chemistry was a blue, Prussian blue, which was soon followed by cobalt blue and cerulean blue.

Blue is a primary color in painting, with the secondary color orange as its complement. It is in the visible spectrum at wavelengths in the range of 440-490 nm.

A perfect blue. Yves Klein (1928-1962), Blue Monochrome, 1961, The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection. Yves Klein likened monochrome painting to an “open window to freedom as the possibility of being immersed in the immeasurable existence of color.” He worked with a chemist to develop his own particular brand of blue. Made from pure color pigment and a binding medium, it is called International Klein Blue. Klein adopted this hue as a means of evoking the immateriality and boundlessness of his utopian vision of the world. A student of Eastern religions, Klein

Symbolism of the Color Green

The word green is closely related to the Old English verb growan, “to grow.” Green is the color of life. It is the color of seasonal renewal. Since verdant spring triumphs over barren winter, green symbolizes hope and immortality. The Chinese associate green (and black) with the female Yin – the passive and receiving principle. Islam venerates the color green, expecting paradise to be full of lush vegetation. Green is also associated with regeneration, fertility, and rebirth due to its connections with nature.

In Alchemy, solvents for gold were named “Green Lion” or “Green Dragon” by the alchemists. Such liquids were instrumental in the beginning of the alchemistic Opus Magnum. Transparent green crystal symbolized the “secret fire,” which represented the living spirit of substances.

In some cultures, green symbolizes hope and growth, while in others, it is associated with death, sickness, or the devil. It can also describe someone who is inexperienced, jealous, or sick.

Short History of Green Pigments

In painting (substructive color system), green is not a primary color, but is created by mixing yellow and blue. Green pigments have been used since Antiquity, both in the form of natural earth and malachite, used primarily by Egyptians. Greeks introduced verdigris, one of the first artificial pigments. Copper resinate was introduced in European 15th century easel panting, but was soon discarded. Thanks to chemistry, a new generation of greens was introduced beginning in the late 18th century: cobalt green, emerald green, and viridian.

The perception of green occurs with light at wavelengths of roughly 520-570 nm.

The Impressionists revived the use of the color green. The depiction of the green color of nature was revived in Impressionism partly because of the advent of tubes for pigments, which made it possible to paint on location, and partly thanks to the manufacture of new and brighter green pigments. In his painting “The Japanese Bridge,” 1899, Monet uses the color of hope together with the symbol of a bridge. The bridge stands for the uniting of people and revives hope for a peaceful future. Incidentally, Monet’s use of Emerald Green pigment, which contained arsenic, may have contributed to his blindness in later life

Symbolism of the Color Yellow

The word yellow comes from the Old English geolu. Yellow is associated with sunshine, knowledge, and the flourishing of living creatures, but also with autumn and maturity. The yellow sun was one of humanity’s most important symbols and was worshiped as God in many cultures. According to Greek mythology, the sun-god Helios wore a yellow robe and rode in a golden chariot drawn by four fiery horses across the heavenly firmament. The radiant yellow light of the sun personified divine wisdom.

In China, yellow is assigned to the active and creative male Yang principle, while ancient Egyptians ascribed yellow to the female principle.

In the English language, yellow has traditionally been associated with jaundice and cowardice. In Italy, “yellow” (“giallo”) refers to crime stories, both fictional and real. This association began around 1930, when the first published series of crime novels had yellow covers.

Yellow is also the color of caution. Yellow lights signal drivers to slow down in anticipation of stopping. Construction scenes and other dangerous area are often enclosed by a bright yellow barricade tape repeating the word “caution.”

Short History of Yellow Pigments

The oldest yellow pigment is yellow ochre, which was amongst the first pigments used by humans. Egyptians and the ancient world made wide use of the mineral orpiment for a more brilliant yellow than yellow ochre. In the Middle Ages, Europeans manufactured lead tin yellow. They later imported Indian yellow and rediscovered the method for the production of Naples yellow, which was used by the Egyptians. Modern chemistry led to the creation of many other yellows, including chrome yellow, cadmium yellow, lemon yellow, and cobalt yellow.

Yellow is light with a wavelength of 570-580 nm, as is light with a suitable mixture of somewhat longer and shorter wavelengths.

Both the yellow sun and yellow gold shared the qualities of being imperishable, eternal, and indestructible. Thus, anything portrayed as yellow in Egyptian art generally carried this connotation. The skin and bones of the gods were believed to be made of gold. In this image of Ra, note the gold skin tone of the god. Compare this to the musician, who has the classic reddish-brown skin tone of humans.

In early 20th century Germany, Franz Marc ignited a back-to-nature movement, a central tenet of which was that animals possessed a certain godliness that men had long since lost. Marc wrote, “People with their lack of piety, especially men, never touched my true feelings.” In contrast, he also wrote that “animals with their virginal sense of life awakened all that was good in me.” Marc developed a theory of color symbolism in order to communicate the ideas of his movement. Yellow symbolized femininity because it is “gentle, cheerful, and sensual,” while blue symbolized masculinity because it is “spiritual and intellectual.” The cow in his painting, The Yellow Cow (1911, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum), could therefore be a depiction of Maria Franck, his wife, while the triangular blue mountains could be Marc’s abstract self-portrait.

For over a century, it was believed that the commonly used Indian Yellow pigment was created from the urine of cattle in India that were fed only mango leaves and water. Allegedly, the dried urine was collected and formed into balls of pigment. There is no concrete evidence to suggest that cow urine was the true origin of Indian Yellow pigment. Today, a synthetic Indian Yellow hue is manufactured using a combination of nickel aso, hansa yellow, and quinacridone burnt orange.

The title of Turner’s painting “Light and Morning after the Deluge, Moses writing the Book of Genesis” (1843) pointedly describes the role of the color yellow: the radiant yellow sun ends a long period of darkness and begins a new pure era of light after the all-devouring deluge. The painting is interpreted as an allegory of light, with Moses depicted slightly above the center in the vortex of light.

Symbolism of the Color Orange

The color we know as orange was referred to in Old English as “geoluhread,” which means yellow-red. The word “orange” was adopted after the eponymous fruit was introduced to English via the Spanish word naranja, which came from the Sanskrit word nāraá¹…ga. Orange conveys energy, enthusiasm, and balance. It has less intensity or violence than red, and is calmed by the happiness of yellow. The color orange often relates to autumn, when the leaves turn shades of orange and brown. Orange is also tied to Hinduism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, the color orange represents fire, a metaphor for the inner transformation that is experienced by swamis donning orange robes.

Orange is also used for safety purposes as a warning color. Orange can be found on dangerous machinery, high visibility clothing, and traffic cones.

Short History of Orange Pigments

The pure orange pigments realgar and chrome orange were favored by the Impressionists. Less pure tones of orange were found largely in the ochre family and lately in the cadmium family. Cadmium orange is a popular color in oils, acrylics, and watercolors. The more recently developed Azo orange is cheaper than cadmium orange, is non-toxic, and retains the same degree of lightfastness.

The color orange occurs between red and yellow in the visible spectrum at a wavelength of about 585-620 nm. The complementary color of orange is azure, a slightly greenish blue.

In this Impressionist painting, the sun is set against the dawn, a vibrant orange color rising against the gray setting of its motionless surroundings. The movement’s name was engendered by this Monet paining, “Impression: Sunrise” (1873, Musee Marmottan, Paris), when critics called Monet and his comrades “Impressionists.”

Vincent van Gogh said, “There is no blue without yellow and without orange.” Influenced by prints from Japan, he painted dark outlines around objects, filling these in with areas of thick color. He was aware that juxtaposing complementary colors made each color seem brighter, so he used yellows and oranges with blues and reds with greens.

“To exaggerate the fairness of hair, I come even to orange tones, chromes and pale yellow…. I make a plain background of the richest, most intense blue that I can contrive, and by this simple combination of the bright head against the rich blue background, I get a mysterious effect, like a star in the depths of an azure sky.” This is exemplified by his self-portrait (1889, Musée d’Orsay, Paris).

The ingredients of Antonio Stradivari’s orange varnish remain a mystery to this day. Stradivari was a renowned maker of stringed instruments in 18th century Italy, and 300 years later his violins can fetch $2-3 million at auction. It is now believed that the orange varnish is what gives Stradivarius violins their exquisite sound.

Although madder is commonly associated these days with pink and red, it can also be used to create orange. Madder roots, when heated in a vat and mixed with a mordant such as alum, can be used to create a deep orange dye. The color intensity of the dyed fabric will fade over time through repeated exposure to sunlight and environmental elements, but if well-preserved, the brilliant orange can last for centuries.

“Flaming June” by Lord Frederic Leighton, 1895. This Victorian era painting depicts a sleeping woman wearing a flaming orange dress. Painted in a classical style, “Flaming June” celebrates the vibrancy of the color orange contrasted against the main figure’s quiet repose.

Symbolism of the Color Red

Red is the color of fire and blood. Hebrew words for blood and red have the same origin: “dm” means red and “dom” means blood. Blood and fire have both positive and negative connotations: bloodshed, aggression, war, and hate are on one side, and love, warmth and compassion on the other side. In ancient Egypt, red was the color of life and of victory. During celebrations, Egyptians would paint their bodies with red ochre. The normal skin tone of Egyptian men was depicted as red, without any negative connotation.

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Ancient Greeks associated the bright, luminous red with the male principle. Red was also the color of the Greek gods of war, Phoebus and Ares. In prehistoric cultures, however, red was associated with the female principle. Mother Earth provided the Neolithic peoples with red ochre, which was credited with life-giving powers. The association of the red color with the female principle in Japan survives to the present day.

In Catholic churches, altars are decorated in red for the Feast of Pentecost to symbolize the Holy Ghost. Christ’s head is surrounded by a yellow glowing corona: Christ defeats darkness and leads the way to light.

Short History of Red Pigments

The oldest pigment was probably red ochre, which was used in cave art. The ancient world had red madder lake, artificially-made red lead, and vermilion (natural mineral cinnabar). Artificially-made vermilion was the most prominent red pigment until the manufacture of cadmium red in 1907.

Red is one of the subtractive primary colors. Red is light of the longest wavelengths discernible by the human eye, in the wavelength range of roughly 630-740 nm. Longer wavelengths constitute infrared light and cannot be seen by the naked eye.

Statue of Seth

Redheads are often stereotyped as having fiery tempers. The god Seth, associated with destruction, was depicted as having red eyes and hair. Seth was victorious over Apep, but murdered his brother, Osiris. His red coloration could mean evil or victory, depending upon the context in which he is portrayed. Generally speaking, in ancient Egypt red was an ambivalent color. It was associated with health and vitality, but also anger and violence.

Christ should have been buried in a white shroud but in the Isenheim altarpiece resurrection, painted by Matthias Grünewald in 1515, Jesus wears a vermilion red robe representing a series of symbols: A martyr’s red blood; power over life and death; faith; fulfillment; and love. The red robe invokes a blazing flame striving towards heaven and the divine.

The color carmine red is produced from cochineal, tiny insects found in South America and Mexico. The insects are grown on plantations and raised on prickly pear cacti until they reach their maximum size. They are then collected and crushed to create carmine red dye, which is commonly used in cosmetics such as lipstick, blush, and eye shadow. Crushed cochineals also produce the color additive E120, which can be found in Cherry Coke. While the current use of cochineal primarily relates to color, in prior centuries cochineal was used for a wide range of healing purposes. and soothed physical ailments ranging from headaches to heart problems.

Cinnabar is a type of red mercury ore that was mixed with an equal amount of burning sulphur to create an expensive red paint that was highly popular with the Romans, where it was used for cosmetic and decorative purposes. Cinnabar was painted on the Pompeiian baths of Titus, as well as on statues of the gods. Prisoners were forced to extract cinnabar from mercury mines without proper ventilation or protection, so they would die after a few years of constant exposure to the heavy metal. Starting with the Song Dynasty, cinnabar was used to color Chinese carved laqcuerware. Today, a safer, resin-based polymer is used instead of the toxic cinnabar pigment.

Symbolism of the Color White

White objects such as clouds, snow, and flowers often appear in nature, creating many references within our human culture to the color white. In some cultures, like China’s, the color white represents death and illness. In many cultures, however, white represents freedom, purity, and innocence. This is why, for example, white is worn by brides in Western countries.

In ancient Egypt, white suggested omnipotence and purity. The name of the holy city of Memphis meant “White Walls.” White sandals were worn at holy ceremonies. Ritual objects, such as small ceremonial bowls, were often white.

The high contrast between white and black is often used to represent opposite concepts, such as day and night, and good and evil. In Taoism, which has great influence in Eastern culture, yin and yang are usually depicted in black and white.

Toxic lead white was used by artists for hundreds of years before it was widely banned in the late 20th century. Lead white was commonly used not only as a canvas primer, but also for creating tints of various colors as well as highlights. Lead white was also regularly used in cosmetics, often with fatal consequences.

Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian painter and art theorist, describes his perception of the color white: “… white, although often considered as no color (a theory largely due to the Impressionists, who saw no white in nature), is a symbol of a world from which all color as a definite attribute has disappeared. This world is too far above us for its harmony to touch our souls. A great silence, like an impenetrable wall, shrouds its life from our understanding. White, therefore, has its harmony of silence, which works upon us negatively, like many pauses in music that break temporarily the melody. It is not a dead silence, but one pregnant with possibilities. White has the appeal of the nothingness that is before birth, of the world in the ice age.”

Short History of White Pigments

Lime powder and gesso where the first whites available in prehistoric times. The most important contribution to art materials from Greece was lead white, a pigment that would become ubiquitous in Western art. Modern whites are zinc white and titanium white. Thanks to its excellent qualities, titanium white has largely replaced lead white in both art and industry.

The perception of white is due to light that stimulates all three types of color sensitive cone cells in the human eye in nearly equal amounts and with high brightness.

Piet Mondrian fell in love with white. Mondrian’s most famous paintings are made up of pure red, yellow, black, white, and blue as in Composition A (1923, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rome), at left. Over time, though, his artwork became simpler and white became progressively more important. Wider fields of color dominated his paintings, separated by large sections of pure white, as in the Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow (1930, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT), at center. Just five years later, in 1935, white itself became the focus, as in the Composition in Blue and White. Mondrian’s fascination with white was described by Charmion von Wiegand, when he visited the painter’s studio in New York: “Everything was spotless white, like a laboratory. In a light smock, with his clean-shaven face, taciturn, wearing his heavy glasses, Mondrian seemed more a scientist or priest than an artist. The only relief to all the white was large mat boards, rectangles in yellow, red and blue, hung in asymmetric arrangements on all the walls. Peering at me through his glasses, he noticed my glance and said: “I’ve arranged these to make it more cheerful.” Art conservators are not entirely sure what pigments Mondrian used in his paintings. His artwork has undergone in-depth scientific analysis in the hopes of discovering the chemical compositions of the pigment used, which is essential knowledge for conservation purposes.

Symbolism of the Color Brown

The word brown comes from Old English “brún,” used for any dusky or dark shade of color. Brown represents earthiness. While brown might be considered a little dull compared to the other colors, brown also represents simplicity, health, and dependability. UPS (United Parcel Service) long ago adopted brown as its corporate color, and companies today often use brown paper to denote a natural product.

Although brown may not be as glamorous as other colors, its importance in painting is highly recognized by artists, who use browns such as burnt sienna and burnt umber to create subtle gradations from light to dark. The color brown therefore enables artists to create a sense of realism on the canvas.

Short History of Brown Pigments

Humanity had pure brown pigments from the beginning of art. Umber is a natural earth color with many natural (raw umber, raw sienna) and manmade (burnt umber, burnt sienna) variations, providing painters throughout history with many brown shades to satisfy their visual needs. In the 17th century, another natural earth color came into use, namely Van Dyke brown.

Although earthy browns were available for artists’ use, in the 18th and 19th centuries European artists commonly used a brown called “mommia” that was made from corpses. Egyptian mummies were exhumed and processed for commercial use as artist paint.

Another odd source of the color brown was the cuttlefish, whose secretions of dark ink were used to create sepia dye. These days, artificial dyes have replaced cuttlefish ink for sepia.

Brown may cover a wide range of the visible spectrum because it refers to more hues (yellow, orange, or red) in combination with low luminance or saturation. Its shades are named using composite adjectives, such as red brown, yellowish brown, dark brown, and so forth. Browns can be made from primary colors, mixing blue with yellow to get green and then, mixing green with red. Browns can also be made simply by mixing orange or red color with a bit of black paint.

The white to brown revolution

Top, Rembrandt, History Painting, 1626, Leiden, Stedelijk Museum.

Middle, detail.

Bottom, cross-section.

Ground is the term describing the layer applied to the support as a preparation for painting. In early panel paintings, the ground consisted of inert white filler (chalk or gesso (mineral gypsum)) bound with animal skin glue.

In the early 16th century, artists began to color their grounds dark brown because doing so made it possible to execute a painting more rapidly and freely. Dark brown grounds were also exploited in the composition of a painting, either by leaving parts exposed, as can be seen in the detail of the shaded part along the forehead and nose, where the brown ground is partly visible. The evolution was complete by the 17th century, when it became unusual to paint onto a white surface.

Rembrandt used carbon black as the main tinting pigment for the ground layer. In this cross-section from the top part of the white sash of the man on the extreme left of the painting, we can see from bottom to top the brown colored chalk and glue ground followed by a bit brighter second thin ground. Next, another dark mixture was used for the under painting and finally the lead white layer of the sash

Brown and orange are more closely related than you might have imagined. The perceived color depends upon which white a color is compared with. This is particularly true for tertiary colors like brown, which is perceived only in the presence of a brighter color contrast; otherwise it looks orange. Orange is still perceived as such, regardless of the general illumination level. Look at these two disks in the image. They are objectively identical, but the one in a brighter light looks brown, while the one in the shadow looks orange. The indefinable nature of brown could be the reason why Japanese do not have a specific word for it but refer to brown with names such as “tea-color” and “fallen-leaf.”

Symbolism of the Color Black

The color black represents opposing ideas: authority and humility, rebellion and conformity, and wealth and poverty. Black also signifies absence, modernity, power, elegance, professionalism, mystery, evil, traditionalism, and sorrow.

Black also implies submission. Priests wear black to signify submission to God.

In Western countries, black is the color of mourning, while in many African countries white is the color worn during funerals.

In Japanese culture, black means experience, as opposed to white, which symbolizes naiveté. Thus the black belt is a mark of achievement and seniority in many martial arts, whereas a white belt is worn by beginners.

The Russian painter and art theorist Wassily Kandinsky interprets the color black as: “a totally dead silence… A silence with no possibilities, has the inner harmony of black. In music it is represented by one of those profound and final pauses, after which any continuation of the melody seems the dawn of another world. Black is something burnt out, like the ashes of a funeral pyre, something motionless like a corpse. The silence of black is the silence of death. Outwardly black is the color with least harmony of all, a kind of neutral background against which the minute shades of other colors stand clearly forward. It differs from white in this also, for with white nearly every color is in discord, or even mute altogether.”

Short History of Black Pigments

Carbon black was the first black. This dull black is the easiest to manufacture because it is made of charcoal. Another black is vine black, which is traditionally made by charring desiccated grape vines and stems, which produce beautiful bluish blacks. Bone black, made of burnt bones from prehistoric times, is the deepest available black. Rembrandt used bone black for the black clothing worn by his sitters in order to distinguish them from the already dark night surroundings.

From prehistoric times to the present day, artists typically use carbon black charcoal to sketch their initial designs before starting a painting. These preliminary charcoal sketches are often used to outline the composition and determine the relative values of the objects portrayed, thus forming an important part of the art-making process. From the charcoal bison drawings in the caves of Altamira, to the charcoal studies created during Life Drawing classes at art schools throughout the world, the black marks made by charcoal contain a particular sense of freshness and immediacy that isn’t found in colored artwork.

Black has been a fashionable color throughout history. For instance, a black tie dinner is very formal and elegant. Wearing black is a current fashion trend because it is believed to make people appear thinner. Black was fashionable in the Medieval era also; it became the habit of courtiers and a symbol of luxury as clearly shown in this portrait of a youth in front of a white curtain, painted by Lorenzo Lotto in 1508.

Rembrandt loved blacks. His sitters’ black clothes called for the most intense black pigment. Therefore, bone black is found everywhere in Rembrandt’s paintings, but is always mixed with other pigments and/or lakes. There are just a couple of exceptions. One case is the portrait of Aechje Claesdr (1634, The National Gallery, London). Rembrandt used brushstrokes of pure bone black for the darkest parts of the clothing.

Chinese ink, known for the rich depth of its blackness, is traditionally made from soot mixed with animal glue. The most highly-regarded Chinese ink paintings are monochromatic because they are painted using a single color – black. The values


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