Purple is a color intermediate between blue and red. It is similar to violet, but unlike violet, which is a spectral color with its own wavelength on the visible spectrum of light, purple is a composite color made by combining red and blue. According to surveys in Europe and the U.S., purple is the color most often associated with royalty, magic, mystery, and piety. When combined with pink, it is associated with eroticism, femininity, and seduction.
Purple was the color worn by Roman magistrates; it became the imperial color worn by the rulers of the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, and later by Roman Catholic bishops. Similarly in Japan, the color is traditionally associated with the Emperor and aristocracy. The complementary color of purple is yellow.
In art, history and fashion
In prehistory and the ancient world: Tyrian purple
Purple first appeared in prehistoric art during the Neolithic era. The artists of Pech Merle cave and other Neolithic sites in France used sticks of manganese and hematite powder to draw and paint animals and the outlines of their own hands on the walls of their caves. These works have been dated to between 16,000 and 25,000 BC.
As early as the 15th century BC the citizens of Sidon and Tyre, two cities on the coast of Ancient Phoenicia, (present day Lebanon), were producing purple dye from a sea snail called the spiny dye-murex. Clothing colored with the Tyrian dye was mentioned in both the Iliad of Homer and the Aeneid of Virgil. The deep, rich purple dye made from this snail became known as Tyrian purple.
The process of making the dye was long, difficult and expensive. Thousands of the tiny snails had to be found, their shells cracked, the snail removed. Mountains of empty shells have been found at the ancient sites of Sidon and Tyre. The snails were left to soak, then a tiny gland was removed and the juice extracted and put in a basin, which was placed in the sunlight. There a remarkable transformation took place. In the sunlight the juice turned white, then yellow-green, then green, then violet, then a red which turned darker and darker. The process had to be stopped at exactly the right time to obtain the desired color, which could range from a bright crimson to a dark purple, the color of dried blood. Then either wool, linen or silk would be dyed. The exact hue varied between crimson and violet, but it was always rich, bright and lasting.
Tyrian purple became the color of kings, nobles, priests and magistrates all around the Mediterranean. It was mentioned in the Old Testament; In the Book of Exodus, God instructs Moses to have the Israelites bring him an offering including cloth “of blue, and purple, and scarlet.”, to be used in the curtains of the Tabernacle and the garments of priests. The term used for purple in the 4th-century Latin Vulgate version of the Bible passage is purpura or Tyrian purple. In the Iliad of Homer, the belt of Ajax is purple, and the tails of the horses of Trojan warriors are dipped in purple. In the Odyssey, the blankets on the wedding bed of Odysseus are purple. In the poems of Sappho (6th century BC) she celebrates the skill of the dyers of the Greek kingdom of Lydia who made purple footwear, and in the play of Aeschylus (525–456 BC), Queen Clytemnestra welcomes back her husband Agamemnon by decorating the palace with purple carpets. In 950 BC, King Solomon was reported to have brought artisans from Tyre to provide purple fabrics to decorate the Temple of Jerusalem.
Alexander the Great (when giving imperial audiences as the basileus of the Macedonian Empire), the basileus of the Seleucid Empire, and the kings of Ptolemaic Egypt all wore Tyrian purple.
The Roman custom of wearing purple togas may have come from the Etruscans; an Etruscan tomb painting from the 4th century BC shows a nobleman wearing a deep purple and embroidered toga.
In Ancient Rome, the Toga praetexta was an ordinary white toga with a broad purple stripe on its border. It was worn by freeborn Roman boys who had not yet come of age, curule magistrates, certain categories of priests, and a few other categories of citizens.
The Toga picta was solid purple, embroidered with gold. During the Roman Republic, it was worn by generals in their triumphs, and by the Praetor Urbanus when he rode in the chariot of the gods into the circus at the Ludi Apollinares. During the Empire, the toga picta was worn by magistrates giving public gladiatorial games, and by the consuls, as well as by the emperor on special occasions.
During the Roman Republic, when a triumph was held, the general being honored wore an entirely purple toga bordered in gold, and Roman Senators wore a toga with a purple stripe. However, during the Roman Empire, purple was more and more associated exclusively with the emperors and their officers. Suetonius claims that the early emperor Caligula had the King of Mauretania murdered for the splendour of his purple cloak, and that Nero forbade the use of certain purple dyes. In the late empire the sale of purple cloth became a state monopoly protected by the death penalty.
Jesus Christ, in the hours leading up to his crucifixion, was dressed in purple (πορφύρα: porphura) by the Roman garrison to mock his claim to be ‘King of the Jews’.
The actual color of Tyrian purple seems to have varied from a reddish to a bluish purple. According to the Roman writer Vitruvius, (1st century BC), the murex coming from northern waters, probably murex brandaris, produced a more bluish color than those of the south, probably murex trunculus. The most valued shades were said to be those closer to the color of dried blood, as seen in the mosaics of the robes of the Emperor Justinian in Ravenna. The chemical composition of the dye from the murex is close to that of the dye from indigo, and indigo was sometimes used to make a counterfeit Tyrian purple, a crime which was severely punished. What seems to have mattered about Tyrian purple was not its color, but its luster, richness, its resistance to weather and light, and its high price.
In modern times, Tyrian purple has been recreated, at great expense. When the German chemist, Paul Friedander, tried to recreate Tyrian purple in 2008, he needed twelve thousand mollusks to create 1.4 ounces of dye, enough to color a handkerchief. In the year 2000, a gram of Tyrian purple made from ten thousand mollusks according to the original formula, cost two thousand euros.
Purple in the Byzantine Empire and Carolingian Europe
Through the early Christian era, the rulers of the Byzantine Empire continued the use of purple as the imperial color, for diplomatic gifts, and even for imperial documents and the pages of the Bible. Gospel manuscripts were written in gold lettering on parchment that was colored Tyrian purple. Empresses gave birth in the Purple Chamber, and the emperors born there were known as “born to the purple,” to separate them from emperors who won or seized the title through political intrigue or military force. Bishops of the Byzantine church wore white robes with stripes of purple, while government officials wore squares of purple fabric to show their rank.
In western Europe, the Emperor Charlemagne was crowned in 800 wearing a mantle of Tyrian purple, and was buried in 814 in a shroud of the same color, which still exists (see below). However, after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, the color lost its imperial status. The great dye works of Constantinople were destroyed, and gradually scarlet, made with dye from the cochineal insect, became the royal color in Europe.
The Middle Ages and Renaissance
In 1464, Pope Paul II decreed that cardinals should no longer wear Tyrian purple, and instead wear scarlet, from kermes and alum, since the dye from Byzantium was no longer available. Bishops and archbishops, of a lower status than cardinals, were assigned the color purple, but not the rich Tyrian purple. They wore cloth dyed first with the less expensive indigo blue, then overlaid with red made from kermes dye.
While purple was worn less frequently by Medieval and Renaissance kings and princes, it was worn by the professors of many of Europe’s new universities. Their robes were modeled after those of the clergy, and they often wore square violet or purple caps and robes, or black robes with purple trim. Purple robes were particularly worn by students of divinity.
Purple and violet also played an important part in the religious paintings of the Renaissance. Angels and the Virgin Mary were often portrayed wearing purple or violet robes.
18th and 19th centuries
In the 18th century, purple was still worn on occasion by Catherine the Great and other rulers, by bishops and, in lighter shades, by members of the aristocracy, but rarely by ordinary people, because of its high cost. But in the 19th century, that changed.
In 1856, an eighteen-year-old British chemistry student named William Henry Perkin was trying to make a synthetic quinine. His experiments produced instead the first synthetic aniline dye, a purple shade called mauveine, shortened simply to mauve. It took its name from the mallow flower, which is the same color. The new color quickly became fashionable, particularly after Queen Victoria wore a silk gown dyed with mauveine to the Royal Exhibition of 1862. Prior to Perkin’s discovery, mauve was a color which only the aristocracy and rich could afford to wear. Perkin developed an industrial process, built a factory, and produced the dye by the ton, so almost anyone could wear mauve. It was the first of a series of modern industrial dyes which completely transformed both the chemical industry and fashion.
Purple was popular with the pre-Raphaelite painters in Britain, including Arthur Hughes, who loved bright colors and romantic scenes.
20th and 21st centuries
At the turn of the century, purple was a favorite color of the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, who flooded his pictures with sensual purples and violets.
In the 20th century, purple retained its historic connection with royalty; George VI (1896–1952), wore purple in his official portrait, and it was prominent in every feature of the coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953, from the invitations to the stage design inside Westminster Abbey. But at the same time, it was becoming associated with social change; with the Women’s Suffrage movement for the right to vote for women in the early decades of the century, with Feminism in the 1970s, and with the psychedelic drug culture of the 1960s.
In the early 20th century, purple, green, and white were the colors of the Women’s Suffrage movement, which fought to win the right to vote for women, finally succeeding with the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Later, in the 1970s, in a tribute to the Suffragettes, it became the color of the women’s liberation movement.
In the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, prisoners who were members of non-conformist religious groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, were required to wear a purple triangle.
During the 1960s and early 1970s, it was also associated with counterculture, psychedelics, and musicians like Jimi Hendrix with his 1967 song “Purple Haze”, or the English rock band of Deep Purple which formed in 1968. Later, in the 1980s, it was featured in the song and album Purple Rain (1984) by the American musician Prince.
The Purple Rain Protest was a protest against apartheid that took place in Cape Town, South Africa on 2 September 1989, in which a police water cannon with purple dye sprayed thousands of demonstrators. This led to the slogan The Purple Shall Govern.
The violet or purple necktie became very popular at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, particularly among political and business leaders. It combined the assertiveness and confidence of a red necktie with the sense of peace and cooperation of a blue necktie, and it went well with the blue business suit worn by most national and corporate leaders.
In ancient China, purple was obtained not through the Mediterranean mollusc, but purple gromwell. The dye obtained did not easily adhere to fabrics, making purple fabrics expensive. Purple became a fashionable colour in the state of Qi (齊) because its ruler developed a preference for it. As a result, the price of a purple spoke of fabric was in excess of five times that of a plain spoke. His minister, Guan Zhong (管仲) eventually convinced him to relinquish this preference.
Purple was regarded as a secondary colour in ancient China. In classical times, secondary colours were not as highly prized as the five primary colours of the Chinese spectrum, and purple was used to allude to impropriety, compared to crimson, which was deemed a primary colour and thus symbolized legitimacy. Nevertheless, by the 6th Century, purple was ranked above crimson. Several changes to the ranks of colours occurred after that time.
Source From Wikipedia