Red: The History of a Color

Author(s): Michel Pastoureau

art design photography

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.


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Short-listed for "The Times (Saturday Review)" Best Art Books of 2017 2017.

Praise for Michel Pastoureau's Blue :"Pastoureau's text moves us through one fascinating area of activity after another... The jacket, cover and end-papers of this luscious book are appropriately blue; its double-columned text breathes easily in the space of its pages; it is so well sewn it opens flat at any place; and fascinating, aptly chosen color plates, not confined to the title color, will please even those eyes denied the good luck of being blue."--William H. Gass, Los Angeles Times Book Review Praise for Michel Pastoureau's Green :"[C]omprehensive and lavishly illustrated."--Natalie Angier, New York Times Praise for Michel Pastoureau's Green :"[S]umptuously illustrated... These are books to look at, but they are also books to read... Individual colors find their being only in relation to each other, and their cultural force depends on the particular instance of their use. They have no separate life or essential meaning. They have been made to mean, and in these volumes that human endeavor has found its historian."--Michael Gorra, New York Review of Books

Michel Pastoureau is a historian and director of studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes 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.

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

General Fields

  • : 9780691172774
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : Princeton University Press
  • : 1.285
  • : December 2016
  • : 235mm X 229mm
  • : United States
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Michel Pastoureau
  • : Hardback
  • : 1
  • : English
  • : 701.85
  • : 216
  • : 112 color illus.