Purple, the color

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“Color! What a deep and mysterious language, the language of dreams.”
Paul Gauguin

Purple is not exactly my favorite color. I don’t think I own any purple clothing nor is it a color I gravitate to on a paint palette. Purple does play out, however, so beautifully in nature—be it a striated sunset full of deep blues and purples accented with tiny glistening starlight, giving way to rich crimsons and burnt orange…

Or perhaps it is found in a sweet demure violet, or a perky morning glory…or in my yard, the formidable southern hydrangea which can’t make up it’s mind or determine its proper PH level—hovering between shades of blue and purple. My blue hydrangea bush is predominately blue, but there are those persnickety blooms, obviously dreaming of their royal lineage, with a refusal of cooperation, daring to turn various shades of purple. Sticking out like a sore thumb as it were……

I shouldn’t mind their independent stance of color choice as purple has quite a rich history. It is a secondary color achieved from an equal combination of two primary colors (colors I always call “God given” as they are not achieved from the mixing of any other colors)—Red + Blue—hot + cold—equaling out to a cool color with a warm presence. It is a color preferred, believe it or not, by males…but add a bit more red and then it is the woman who turns her head in favor…..

It was a color used in imperial Rome—an expensive color to achieve, therefore looked upon favorably by those who could afford such. It was made from the mucus secreted by the spiny dye-murex snail. Laborious and painstaking to make. Kind of gross I know when you think of what must happen with the snails… and it is no wonder, therefore, as to its expense. And since it was equated with those who could afford it, which were the nobility of both government and church, it became known as the color of royalty. Most liturgical based churches today use purple during Lent most often to drape the cross and clergy will usually don purple vestments during the Lenten period.

It’s history is quite extensive, which I simply don’t have time to explore this morning, but it does indeed deserve attention and respect, as do all of the colors of the spectrum. This old art teacher will, I promise, one day give you a true color lesson but however, for this Tuesday, I must acquiesce to my cantankerous blooms, yielding to their insistence toward their royal due and bid them a loyal bow….

One comment on “Purple, the color

  1. Val says:

    I was working on a Sunday school lesson on Lydia some years ago, and decided to go to the experts — the dyers who process and sell their own fiber for knit and crochet on Ravelry.com (social networking for knitters/crocheters). I didn’t use what I found, but extinct sea urchins was the fascinating answer.

    I’m trying to think, but I don’t think purple is a color that occurs in the painted folios of Islamic illuminated manuscripts. They used ground semi-precious stones for their pigments (so they never need low light because they never fade), but they had to work with the pure shades, I don’t think there is purple.

    Purple is cool, but what I still cannot wrap my head around is that red dye in the color red we think of as red didn’t exist in the old world prior to the late 1400s/early 1500s.

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