A Perfect Red recounts the colorful history of cochineal, a legendary red dye that was once one of the world's most precious commodities. Treasured by the ancient Mexicans, cochineal was sold in the great Aztec marketplaces, where it attracted the attention of the Spanish conquistadors in 1519. Shipped to Europe, the dye created a sensation, producing the brightest, strongest red the world had ever seen. Soon Spain's cochineal monopoly was worth a fortune. Desperate to find their own sources of the elusive dye, the English, French, Dutch, and other Europeans tried to crack the enigma of cochineal. Did it come from a worm, a berry, a seed? Could it be stolen from Mexico and transplanted to their own colonies? Pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies -- all joined the chase for cochineal, a chase that lasted more than three centuries. A Perfect Red tells their stories -- true-life tales of mystery, empire, and adventure, in pursuit of the most desirable color on earth.
A history of the red dye cochineal cites its role in building the empires of monopoly holders in ancient Mexico and sixteenth-century Spain, tracing the efforts of European pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies to discover the dye's origins. 35,000 first printing.
Author: Amy Butler Greenfield
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: 2011-12-31
A Perfect Red recounts the colourful history of cochineal, a legendary red dye that was once one of the world's most precious commodities. Treasured by the ancient Mexicans, cochineal was sold in the great Aztec marketplaces, where it attracted the attention of the Spanish conquistadors in 1519. Shipped to Europe, the dye created a sensation, producing the brightest, strongest red the world had ever seen. Soon Spain's cochineal monopoly was worth a fortune. Desperate to find their own sources of the elusive dye, the English, the French, the Dutch, and other Europeans tried to crack the enigma of cochineal. Did it come from a worm, a berry, a seed? Could it be stolen from Mexico and transplanted to their own colonies? Pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies - all joined the chase for cochineal, a chase that lasted for more than three centuries. A Perfect Red tells their stories - true-life tales of mystery, empire, and adventure, in pursuit of the most desirable colour on earth.
Author: Elena Phipps
Publisher: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Release Date: 2010-01-01
From antiquity to the present day, color has been embedded with cultural meaning. Associated with blood, fire, fertility, and life force, the color red has always been extremely difficult to achieve and thus highly prized." "This book discusses the origin of the red colorant derived from the insect cochineal, its early use in Precolumbian ritual textiles from Mexico and Peru, and the spread of the American dyestuff through cultural interchange following the Spanish discovery and conquest of the New World in the 16th century. Drawing on examples from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, it documents the use of this red-colored treasure in several media and throughout the world.
Author: Michel Pastoureau
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Release Date: 2017-02-14
The color red has represented many things, from the life force and the divine to love, lust, and anger. Up through the Middle Ages, red held a place of privilege in the Western world. For many cultures, red was not just one color of many but rather the only color worthy enough to be used for social purposes. In some languages, the word for red was the same as the word for color. The first color developed for painting and dying, red became associated in antiquity with war, wealth, and power. In the medieval period, red held both religious significance, as the color of the blood of Christ and the fires of Hell, and secular meaning, as a symbol of love, glory, and beauty. Yet during the Protestant Reformation, red began to decline in status. Viewed as indecent and immoral and linked to luxury and the excesses of the Catholic Church, red fell out of favor. After the French Revolution, red gained new respect as the color of progressive movements and radical left-wing politics. In this beautifully illustrated book, Michel Pastoureau, the acclaimed author of Blue, Black, and Green, now masterfully navigates centuries of symbolism and complex meanings to present the fascinating and sometimes controversial history of the color red. Pastoureau illuminates red's evolution through a diverse selection of captivating images, including the cave paintings of Lascaux, the works of Renaissance masters, and the modern paintings and stained glass of Mark Rothko and Josef Albers.
Author: Victoria Finlay
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Release Date: 2006-08-15
Throughout history, precious stones have inspired passions and poetry, quests and curses, sacred writings and unsacred actions. In this scintillating book, journalist Victoria Finlay embarks on her own globe-circling search for the real stories behind some of the gems we prize most. Blending adventure travel, geology, exciting new research, and her own irresistible charm, Finlay has fashioned a treasure hunt for some of the most valuable, glamorous, and mysterious substances on earth. With the same intense curiosity and narrative flair she displayed in her widely-praised book Color, Finlay journeys from the underground opal churches of outback Australia to the once pearl-rich rivers of Scotland; from the peridot mines on an Apache reservation in Arizona to the remote ruby mines in the mountains of northern Burma. She risks confronting scorpions to crawl through Cleopatra’s long-deserted emerald mines, tries her hand at gem cutting in the dusty Sri Lankan city where Marco Polo bartered for sapphires, and investigates a rumor that fifty years ago most of the world’s amber was mined by prisoners in a Soviet gulag. Jewels is a unique and often exhilarating voyage through history, across cultures, deep into the earth’s mantle, and up to the glittering heights of fame, power, and wealth. From the fabled curse of the Hope Diamond, to the disturbing truths about how pearls are cultured, to the peasants who were once executed for carrying amber to the centuries-old quest by magicians and scientists to make a perfect diamond, Jewels tells dazzling stories with a wonderment and brilliance truly worthy of its subjects. From the Hardcover edition.
Author: Simon Garfield
Publisher: Canongate Books
Release Date: 2018-05-03
1856. Eighteen-year-old chemistry student William Perkin's experiment has gone horribly wrong. But the deep brown sludge his botched project has produced has an unexpected power: the power to dye everything it touches a brilliant purple. Perkin has discovered mauve, the world's first synthetic dye, bridging a gap between pure chemistry and industry which will change the world forever. From the fetching ribbons soon tying back the hair on every fashionable head in London, to the laboratories in which scientists first scrutinized the human chromosome under the microscope, leading all the way to the development of modern vaccines against cancer and malaria, Simon Garfield's landmark work swirls together science and social history to tell the story of how one colour became a sensation.
Author: Jeffrey A. Lockwood
Publisher: Basic Books
Release Date: 2009-04-28
In 1876, the U.S. Congress declared the locust “the single greatest impediment to the settlement of the country between Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains.” Throughout the nineteenth century, swarms of locusts regularly swept across the American continent, turning noon into dusk, devastating farm communities, and bringing trains to a halt. The outbreaks subsided in the 1890s, and then, suddenly—and mysteriously—the Rocky Mountain locust vanished. A century later, entomologist Jeffrey Lockwood vowed to discover why.Locust is the story of how one insect shaped the history of the western United States. A compelling personal narrative drawing on historical accounts and modern science, this beautifully written book brings to life the cultural, economic, and political forces at work in America in the late nineteenth century, even as it solves one of the greatest extinction mysteries of our time.
Imagine that all the great discoveries of Ancient Egypt had happened in the last few years...and you will have some conception of the great excitement over recent finds in Peru Peru wears its ancient cultures wrapped around in layers, like one of the mummified bodies so well preserved by the nitrates of its deserts. After his acclaimed book on the Incas, The White Rock, Hugh Thomson unwraps those layers to show how civilisation emerged so early and so spectacularly in this toughest and most arid of terrains. Many of the extraordinary cultures of Ancient Peru, from the lines of Nasca to the temple-cult of Chavín, buried in the mountains, and the great pyramids of the coast, have only started to give up their secrets and antiquity in just the last few years. Hugh Thomson has been at the forefront of some of these discoveries himself, having made headlines with his work near Machu Picchu. Now he takes the reader on a journey back from the world of the Incas to the first dawn of Andean civilisation, to give an immensely personal and accessible guide to the wonders that have been revealed.
The captivating story of the pursuit of the most powerful color. A global symbol of power, wealth, mystery, and sexuality, red has seduced viewers and inspired artists for millennia. Painters and other artists engaged in a quest for the source of the perfect red that conveyed the luxury, spirit, and substance of living. In the 1520s, Spanish explorers found it in the grand Aztec markets--in a dye derived from the cochineal insect. The ensuing global spread of American cochineal changed art, culture, science, and trade for centuries. A Red Like No Other follows the precious bug juice from Mexico to Europe and beyond as it insinuated itself into all forms of art, politics, and commerce to color the world in vivid red hues. The images show how the colorant touched cultures and artists worldwide, including pre-Columbian weavers, painters of Spain's Golden Age, Middle Eastern rug makers, and Navajo weavers. El Greco, Tintoretto, Velázquez, van Dyck, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and van Gogh used it, as did Spanish fashion icon Mariano Fortuny. Today contemporary artists and designers continue to embrace the colorant for its beauty and meaning. An international team of more than forty scholars and experts brings a wide spectrum of original research on the symbolic meaning of red, the material meaning of cochineal in art and trade, and the history of the artists driven to find the perfect red.
For centuries, blue and purple dyed fabrics ranked among the ancient world s most desirable objects, commanding many times their weight in gold. Few people knew their secrets, carefully guarding the valuable knowledge, and strict laws regulated their production and use. The Rarest Blue tells the incredible story of tekhelet, the elusive sky-blue color mentioned throughout the Bible. Minoans discovered it; Phoenicians stole it; Roman emperors revered it; and Jews obeying a commandment to affix a thread of it to their garments risked their lives for it. But as the Roman Empire dissolved, the color vanished. Then, in the nineteenth century, a marine biologist marveled as yellow snail guts smeared on a fisherman s shirt turned blue. But what had caused this incredible transformation? Meanwhile, a Hasidic master obsessed with the ancient technique posited that the source of the dye was no snail but a squid. Bitter controversy divided European Jews until a brilliant rabbi proved one side wrong. But had an unscrupulous chemist deceived them? In this richly illustrated book, Baruch Sterman brilliantly recounts the amazing story of this sacred dye that changed the color of history.
Author: Victoria Finlay
Publisher: Getty Publications
Release Date: 2014-11-01
The history of art is inseparable from the history of color. And what a fascinating story they tell together: one that brims with an all-star cast of characters, eye-opening details, and unexpected detours through the annals of human civilization and scientific discovery. Enter critically acclaimed writer and popular journalist Victoria Finlay, who here takes readers across the globe and over the centuries on an unforgettable tour through the brilliant history of color in art. Written for newcomers to the subject and aspiring young artists alike, Finlay’s quest to uncover the origins and science of color will beguile readers of all ages with its warm and conversational style. Her rich narrative is illustrated in full color throughout with 166 major works of art—most from the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Readers of this book will revel in a treasure trove of fun-filled facts and anecdotes. Were it not for Cleopatra, for instance, purple might not have become the royal color of the Western world. Without Napoleon, the black graphite pencil might never have found its way into the hands of Cézanne. Without mango-eating cows, the sunsets of Turner might have lost their shimmering glow. And were it not for the pigment cobalt blue, the halls of museums worldwide might still be filled with forged Vermeers. Red ocher, green earth, Indian yellow, lead white—no pigment from the artist’s broad and diverse palette escapes Finlay’s shrewd eye in this breathtaking exploration.
Author: Sarah S. Kilborne
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Release Date: 2012-10-16
The incredible story of nineteenth-century millionaire William Skinner, a leading founder of the American silk industry, who lost everything in a devastating flood—and his improbable, inspiring comeback to the pinnacle of the business world. In 1845 a young, penniless William Skinner sailed in steerage class on a boat that took him from the slums of London to the United States. Endowed with rare knowledge in the art of dyeing and an uncanny business sense, he acquired work in a fledgling silk mill in Massachusetts, quickly rising to prominence in the nation’s new luxury industry. Soon he opened his own factory and began turning out one of the bestselling silk brands in the country. Skinner was lauded as a pioneer in the textile industry and a manufacturer who knew no such word as fail. His business grew to sustain a bustling community filled with men, women, and children, living and working in the mill village of “Skinner-ville,” producing the country’s most glamorous, fashionable thread. Then, in 1874, disaster struck. Hundreds of millions of gallons of water burst through a nearby dam, destroying everything in its path, including Skinnerville. Within fifteen minutes, Skinner’s entire life’s work was swept away, and he found himself one of the central figures in the worst industrial disaster the nation had yet known. In this gripping narrative history, Skinner’s great-great-granddaughter, Sarah S. Kilborne, tells an inspiring, unforgettable American story—of a town devastated by unimaginable catastrophe; an industry that had no reason to succeed except for the perseverance of a few intrepid entrepreneurs; and a man who had nothing—and everything—to lose as he struggled—and succeeded— to rebuild his life for a second time. American Phoenix offers a new twist on the American dream, reminding us that just when we thought the dream was over, it may have only just begun.