The Origin & History of Red
RED, such vibrancy! Where does red come from? Most of us don’t think about the origin of color. We learn about primary colors in elementary school, our focus being to remember their names and attempt to stay within designs of the sheets in our coloring books.
Interestingly, red is reported to be one of the oldest colors due to its existence in the Neolithic days, also referred to as the New Stone Age. Scientists speculate that Neanderthals used red ochre on their bodies for decorative purposes, ceremonial rituals and more practical matters. Red ochre was an ingredient to make adhesives for attachment of stone tools to handles, as a medication with internal and external uses, such as insect repellent and sunscreen. Other uses included food preservation and as a antibacterial agent to tan and preserve animal hides.
Red ochre is also believed to be one of the first shades of red and used in cave art. The color was created through ochre, a rich clay obtaining red through its content of hematite, an iron oxide. During the Paleolithic period red ochre began being used for paintings, the oldest painting dating between 20,000 and 14,000 B.C. on cave walls in Spain, France and South Africa amongst other locations in the world.
Michel Pastoureau, medieval historian educates readers on red’s history in Western Europe in his new book titled Red: The History of a Color. Michel states, “Red is the archetypal color, the first color humans mastered, fabricated, reproduced and broke down into different shades, first in painting, later in dyeing. This has given it primacy over all other colors through the millennia.”
Which colors do you believe are most popular in the West? Is it red? Actually blue and green are considered the most sought after. However red maintains a special quality, evoking strong emotions and actions, not inspired by blue and green shades. In auctions, red artwork reportedly acquires the highest prices. Yes indeed, this ancient bleed of a color maintains its power! The appeal of lovely reds simply cannot be denied! In fact, red ruled supreme for many centuries, however became less favored in the 16th century due to the Protestant Reformation. The European movement’s initial goal was reformation of practices and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church. During this period in history, the color red began to be viewed as extravagant, showy, vile ... unethical along with other negative connotations. This thought process likely still prevails! Some may enjoy the color red but shy away from the attention it manifests making less dramatic colors more popular.
The history of red is just as noteworthy as the color itself! There is much to learn about red's rich history. Simply a taste! More to come.