Everything has a history. Everything comes with stories behind it. And so do colors. The history of colors has influenced them in many ways. Colors and their meanings have changed during the passage of time. As you might guess, this time, we’re going to travel in time, and we will talk about the history of colors, how they changed, and some other fascinating facts about them.
Before getting into it, let’s prepare our minds. What is the first thing that comes to mind when we think about color?! What do we know about colors?
While thinking about that, let’s start
The origin of colors
When we say colors have changed during history, what do we mean?? We mean that the meanings and concepts that people have been associating with are modified. The usage of colors in the modern day is obviously different from old times.
Now, let’s see what the origin of colors is?
Let’s start with the Green color, and I think many of you agree with me. Green is a subtle and relaxing color, so why not?!!
Green throughout history
The green color was famous as a poisonous color. And it was also a hard color to come by. In ancient times, the color green was expensive to produce. Therefore, a few people were able to get their hands on green pigments.
But one thing hasn’t changed, and that’s green being the color of nature. Since the dawn of time, green has been a natural color and represents life.
In some regions like ancient Egypt, people associated color with regeneration and rebirth. They used this color to paint their tomb walls.
Also, ancient Romans used this color for mosaics, frescos, and stained glass.
Green in Renaissance
Back in the time, the color of clothing could reveal a person’s social class. It was a kind of indicator. Green was the color of professions such as merchants, bankers, and the gentry. Since it was gaining more popularity, people started to produce more green pigments from plants or materials. But one gloomy point was that the color used to fade away over time.
To prevent that, the ancient Romans found a solution to drench copper plates in wine to create verdigris, a green pigment that comes after weathering the metal.
Green, a poisonous color
Swedish chemist, Carl Wilhelm Scheele, produced a toxic material (in bright green hue) with the use of the noxious chemical, arsenite, which was called Scheele’s Green.
People used this material for things like dying paper, fabric, toys, etc. But then, some came to the conclusion that this particular dye was the reason for many deaths. For example, the death of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in 1821, as his bedroom wallpaper featured the deadly hue.
Blue color history
As another pleasant color , it’s a good idea to go with Blue. The blue color is a color favored by a great number of people around the world. And the reason is quite obvious. Blue is a soothing, relaxing, and peaceful color. It represents serenity, tranquility, stability, and last but not least, reliability. This was a brief explanation of blue in psychology, but how about blue color in history?
That’s exactly what we’re about to cover. Stay tuned
Blue in ancient world
Again, ancient Egypt. It’s not my fault that Egypt is involved in almost any historical subject. They were always there. Therefore, there’s so much to talk about.
Historic records suggest that ancient Egyptians were the inventor of the color blue. They say that the first signs of a synthetically made color (the Egyptian Blue) was found around 2,200 B.C. It’s also known as Cuprorivaite. They used blue color to paint ceramics, statues, and even to garnish their tombs.
Process of producing blue color:
They used ground limestone and combined it with sand and a copper-containing mineral like azurite or malachite. Then, they used to heat the mixture up to 1470 and 1650°F. Lastly, it would result in an opaque blue glass, then it had to be crushed and mixed with thickening agents like egg whites to create a long-lasting paint or glaze.
To read more about the blue color, you can check out my previous article:
White color history
How about white?
Well, just in case you didn’t know white color is an achromatic, which means having no hue.
In history and art
Scientists believe that white is one of the oldest colors. The paintings of a cave named Lascaux Cave in France shows that paleolithic artists used calcite and chalk for their paintings, around 18000 years ago.
White in ancient civilizations
In Egypt people used white cloth to cover mummies. And it was also a symbolic color of the goddess Isis. and The priests and priestesses of Isis only wore white linen. The roman people used to wear white toga for special occasions (all citizens during the years of 14 to 18). Also, People of eminent families and priests wore toga praetexta with a purple stripe.
Back then, in the time of the Emperor Augustus, the Roman was permitted to appear in the Roman forum without a toga (a tradition). In Greece and also other ancient lands, people mostly associated the white color with mother’s milk. In Greek mythology, the chief god Zeus was nourished at the breast of the nymph Amalthea. In the Talmud, milk was one of four sacred substances, along with wine, honey, and the rose.
Red color history
Have you ever thought about who invented a color? Do we even invent colors or do they just exist??
Still a theory, but it is said that the Chinese were the first people to yield synthetically-made vermilion color (the 4th century B.C). In addition to white, red is an old color. The red color from ochre was one of the earliest colors used in prehistoric art paintings. Speaking of history, Mayans and Egyptians used to paint their faces in red, for special ceremonies. The Roman generals would paint their bodies in red, to celebrate their victories.
In the renaissance ages, the clothing of eminent and noble classes were dyed with brilliant red. They used kermes and cochineal to produce the red dye and pigments. In the 19th century, the first synthetic red dyes were made and introduced. It soon became the replacement of the old red dyes.
During the year, red has gain more and more popularity in civilizations across the globe. For example, Russia took on a red flag after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.
All colors change in the passage of time. based on various events, we associate different symbols and signs with certain colors. therefore, the usage and messages of colors go through several changes.
All colors come with a history and background behind them. Like everything else. Studying the history of colors helps us to gain more knowledge about them. It also enables us to understand the meanings and symbols that people have been associating with colors since the very old times.
Some symbols have changed and some have not.
What we said is just a brief story of a few colors’ history and there will be more to this. So stay tuned for more articles about the history of colors!