Pub. Date:
Red: The History of a Color

Red: The History of a Color

by Michel Pastoureau


Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Tuesday, September 21


A beautifully illustrated visual and cultural history of the color red throughout the ages

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.

Related collections and offers

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691172774
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 02/14/2017
Pages: 216
Sales rank: 508,964
Product dimensions: 9.50(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Michel Pastoureau is a historian and director of studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études de la Sorbonne in Paris. A specialist in the history of colors, symbols, and heraldry, he is the author of many books, including Green, Black, and Blue (all Princeton) and The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages.

Table of Contents

Introduction 7

The First Color (From Earliest Times To The End Of Antiquity) 12

The First Palettes 16

Fire and Blood 22

With Pliny among the Painters 30

Dyeing in Red 37

Roman Purple 40

Red in Everyday Life 44

Evidence from the Lexicon 50

The Favorite Color (Sixth To Fourteenth Centuries) 54

The Four Reds of the Church Fathers 58

The Blood of Christ 64

The Red of Power 69

The First Color of Heraldry 74

Love, Glory, and Beauty 80

Blue versus Red 86

The Wardrobes of Beautiful Florentine Ladies 90

A Controversial Color(Fourteenth To Seventeenth Centuries) 94

In the Flames of Hell 98

Judas, the Redhead 102

Hatred of Red 108

The Red of Painters 116

A Primary Color 126

Fabric and Clothing 130

Little Red Riding Hood 135

A Dangerous Color? (Eighteenth To Twenty-First Centuries) 140

On the Margins of Red: Pink 144

Makeup and Society Life 152

Red Caps and Flags: In the Midst of the Revolution 163

A Political Color 167

Emblems and Signals 176

Red for the Present Day 181

Notes 195

Bibliography 209

Photography Credits214

Acknowledgments 216

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Containing treasures of forgotten lore and many enjoyable anecdotes, Red adds a new chapter to Michel Pastoureau's extensive, erudite histories of color. Demonstrating the multiple meanings of color, this book reveals delightful details about pigments and dyes and navigates centuries of powerful and complex symbolism."—Jean-Baptiste Evette, prize-winning French novelist and translator

Red offers a social and cultural European history of red from antiquity to the twenty-first century. It is immensely engaging and lively, and at the same time takes up interesting and difficult questions of interpretation. Chock full of entertaining and surprising observations delivered with verve, this book will delight casual admirers of cultural history and serious scholars."—David O'Brien, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Customer Reviews