Monday, August 1, 2016

A Perfect Red | Amy Butler Greenfield

Previously I have read Colour: travels through the pain box by Victoria Finlay in which each chapter is dedicated to a short history of the main colours we know today.
I was interested to read A Perfect Red, a more thorough history based on one colour as I found it interesting that  colours have histories very unique to each hue.

Red has  had a checkered past. Pre 1493 it could only be extracted from the madder plant and was quite insipid. The name red was assigned to any hue from light pick to deep burgundy and was highly sought after as it was rare.

With the discovery of the New World the conquistadors encountered the Aztecs and were astonished at the vibrant red they were able to produce from the small bug cochineal. Three hundred years of competition ensued, where the Spanish monopoly in cochineal was attacked by mercenaries, merchants, pirates and royalty.
Europe was taken by storm when guilds began using the small crushed bugs to produce the most vibrant cloth ever to be seen. There was huge secrecy around dyers and their guilds with regard to the use of cochineal on threads and a variety of fabrics. Venetians were famed for their ability to produce rich red velvet.
Laws were enacted to prescribe who could wear red (and other colours) to denote social standing. Colour was a serious business.

Many other fascinating historical facts surround the colour red, and the book is very well researched and written. A great read.

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