Intro to the reds

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Cinnabar is a type of red mercury ore that was mixed with an equal amount of burning sulphur to create an expensive red paint that was highly popular with the Romans, where it was used for cosmetic and decorative purposes. Cinnabar was painted on the Pompeiian baths of Titus, as well as on statues of the gods. Prisoners were forced to extract cinnabar from mercury mines without proper ventilation or protection, so they would die after a few years of constant exposure to the heavy metal. Starting with the Song Dynasty, cinnabar was used to color Chinese carved laqcuerware. Today, a safer, resin-based polymer is used instead of the toxic cinnabar pigment.

Symbolism of the Color Red

Red is the color of fire and blood. Hebrew words for blood and red have the same origin: "dm" means red and "dom" means blood. Blood and fire have both positive and negative connotations: bloodshed, aggression, war, and hate are on one side, and love, warmth and compassion on the other side. In ancient Egypt, red was the color of life and of victory. During celebrations, Egyptians would paint their bodies with red ochre. The normal skin tone of Egyptian men was depicted as red, without any negative connotation.

Ancient Greeks associated the bright, luminous red with the male principle. Red was also the color of the Greek gods of war, Phoebus and Ares. In prehistoric cultures, however, red was associated with the female principle. Mother Earth provided the Neolithic peoples with red ochre, which was credited with life-giving powers. The association of the red color with the female principle in Japan survives to the present day.

In Catholic churches, altars are decorated in red for the Feast of Pentecost to symbolize the Holy Ghost. Christ’s head is surrounded by a yellow glowing corona: Christ defeats darkness and leads the way to light.

Short History of Red Pigments

The oldest pigment was probably red ochre, which was used in cave art. The ancient world had red madder lake, artificially-made red lead, and vermilion (natural mineral cinnabar). Artificially-made vermilion was the most prominent red pigment until the manufacture of cadmium red in 1907.

Red is one of the subtractive primary colors. Red is light of the longest wavelengths discernible by the human eye, in the wavelength range of roughly 630–740 nm. Longer wavelengths constitute infrared light and cannot be seen by the naked eye.

Timeline of red pigments.

Statue of Seth

Redheads are often stereotyped as having fiery tempers. The god Seth, associated with destruction, was depicted as having red eyes and hair. Seth was victorious over Apep, but murdered his brother, Osiris. His red coloration could mean evil or victory, depending upon the context in which he is portrayed. Generally speaking, in ancient Egypt red was an ambivalent color. It was associated with health and vitality, but also anger and violence.

Christ should have been buried in a white shroud but in the Isenheim altarpiece resurrection, painted by Matthias Grünewald in 1515, Jesus wears a vermilion red robe representing a series of symbols: A martyr’s red blood; power over life and death; faith; fulfillment; and love. The red robe invokes a blazing flame striving towards heaven and the divine.

The color carmine red is produced from cochineal, tiny insects found in South America and Mexico. The insects are grown on plantations and raised on prickly pear cacti until they reach their maximum size. They are then collected and crushed to create carmine red dye, which is commonly used in cosmetics such as lipstick, blush, and eye shadow. Crushed cochineals also produce the color additive E120, which can be found in Cherry Coke. While the current use of cochineal primarily relates to color, in prior centuries cochineal was used for a wide range of healing purposes. and soothed physical ailments ranging from headaches to heart problems.