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Color symbolism

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  • Sunny Medlock
    I have been hanging out with friends and talking about art when the question was posed, Why is the Virgin always wearing red and blue? Of course, as an art
    Message 1 of 7 , Oct 1, 2001
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      I have been hanging out with friends and talking about art when the
      question was posed, "Why is the Virgin always wearing red and blue?"
      Of course, as an art history student, I feel embarassed that I don't
      know the answer, and proceded to look it up in books, to no avail.
      Then I got on line, where the only thing I could find out was that
      blue symbolized purity and peacefulness. Any more ideas or books I
      could look into? Gwendoline?

      Many thanks in advance,
      Elisabetta
    • Zohra Rawling
      I was always told that blue is the colour of heaven and that is why she wears it. Ysabella
      Message 2 of 7 , Oct 2, 2001
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        I was always told that blue is the colour of heaven and that is why she
        wears it.


        Ysabella
      • Amy L. Hornburg Heilveil
        ... Purity and peacefulness, yes, these are things that are symbolized by the color blue - at one time the color blue was also thought to have a calming effect
        Message 3 of 7 , Oct 2, 2001
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          At 06:28 AM 10/2/2001 +0000, you wrote:
          I have been hanging out with friends and talking about art when the question was posed, "Why is the Virgin always wearing red and blue?" 

          Purity and peacefulness, yes, these are things that are symbolized by the color blue - at one time the color blue was also thought to have a calming effect on headaches.  Ultramarine blue (ground lapis) as the most costly of colors should be reserved for the most revered of personages - the Virgin Mary, as the mother of Christ would certainly qualify as such. I've also been told that azure, blue from the stone azurite, was used exclusively for the Virgin as it is the only color costly enough to be deemed worthy of her. (Either way, they were both expensive and used to either show one's wealth or respect to the item/person being painted.) One of Mary's titles is 'Queen of Heaven', thus it is fitting that she be clothed in blue, the color of the heavens.

          Taken from an unremembered webpage:  Purkinje discovered that in dim lighting as the rods come into play the red cones become less active. The color range we see shifts toward the violet/blue end of the spectrum. Because of this, the reds in dim light often appear grey while blues suddenly take on an ethereal brightness. It's now known as the Purkinje effect. What is interesting is how in dimly lit apses of churches, the blues do appear vibrant and glowing, the red recedes into more of a background color.  So the figure of the Virgin is 'lit' as it were, just from the dim lighting in many church apses.

          Me again:
          Another symbolic meaning for these particular colors is such: red as fire/trials.  The Virgin Mary went through trials, to become the tempered and pure woman she was - her pregnancy brought shame upon her, her family and her betrothed.  She delivered Christ of her body, thus the blood of birth and she witnessed the death of her son (and by the time he arrived at the cross, he wasn't in such good shape, with a crown of thorns, having been lashed, then nailed to the boards and finally having a soldier stick a sword into his side; it was not a bloodless death). So she went through the blood of his birth and witnessed the blood of his death - things a mother would carry close to her: therefore her inner garment is red.  Red is also said to bolster one's courage, another reason for Mary to wear that color close to her. Blue as the color of her outer garment shows a number of things also.  It gives the world proof of her purity, her closeness to heaven and her calm.  In the face of the ridicule she withstood as an unwed mother an outward sign of purity is a needed reminder.  Blue was believed to drive out demons and cast away sin - therefore, she is within a raiment that will not allow her to be touched by evil or sin and she remains pure forever.

          Red also symbolizes power and one is bid to remember that Mary has the power to intercede on one's behalf to her Son.  Red as a fugitive dye was not cheap and therefore, used on the clothing of the elite - consider, Cardinals wear red and the only person higher than them in the (earthly) Church is the Pope himself.

            Any more ideas or books I could look into? 

          Something I found on the web that sounded interesting but it's $60.

          http://www.onlinetoday.com/users/swanjones/home.htm
          Volume IV: The Virgin Mary in Art, Renaissance to
          Reformation
          Video Tape: 1996 (ISBN: 1-882238-07-9) Booklet: (ISBN:1-882238-08-7)
          I hope my ramblings and vague recollections have helped a bit.

          Cu drag,
          Despina




          We are all faced with great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.
          cited in Bits and Pieces
        • Grooby, Peter
          ... I don t know about red, but this is the explaination I was given for blue. The particular shade of blue often used was made from ground up Lapis Lazuli.
          Message 4 of 7 , Oct 2, 2001
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            > Date: Tue, 02 Oct 2001 06:28:43 -0000
            > From: "Sunny Medlock" <sunnyday78723@...>
            > Subject: Color symbolism
            >
            > I have been hanging out with friends and talking about art when the
            > question was posed, "Why is the Virgin always wearing red and blue?"
            > Of course, as an art history student, I feel embarassed that I don't
            > know the answer, and proceded to look it up in books, to no avail.
            > Then I got on line, where the only thing I could find out was that
            > blue symbolized purity and peacefulness. Any more ideas or books I
            > could look into? Gwendoline?
            >
            I don't know about red, but this is the explaination I was given for
            blue.

            The particular shade of blue often used was made from ground up
            Lapis Lazuli. This happened to be one of the most expensive colours. So out
            of a choice of which paint to use for such an important figure, they choose
            the most expensive one.

            Vitale




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          • Marianne Perdomo Machin
            ... A very interesting question, which we were discussing in another list. I m glad it s showing up here. I initially believed the blue arguments and so on and
            Message 5 of 7 , Oct 2, 2001
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              Sunny Medlock wrote:

              > I have been hanging out with friends and talking about art when the
              > question was posed, "Why is the Virgin always wearing red and blue?"
              > Of course, as an art history student, I feel embarassed that I don't
              > know the answer, and proceded to look it up in books, to no avail.
              > Then I got on line, where the only thing I could find out was that
              > blue symbolized purity and peacefulness. Any more ideas or books I
              > could look into? Gwendoline?

              A very interesting question, which we were discussing in another list. I'm
              glad it's showing up here.
              I initially believed the blue arguments and so on and have heard different
              explanations for them - the most out of the way being that blue was once
              associated with the goddess Astarte (at least I think it was her) and could
              have "migrated" by association. But then I started looking at pics from a
              couple of sources and found no convincing argument that the Virgin dressed in
              any particular colors. Sure, she's often seen in blue and/or red but then so
              are a lot of other people. I actually did a sort of "control test" - in
              images in which the Virgin does not appear, are there images dressed in
              blue/red? And sure, they were there quite often. So now my belief is that any
              such arguments about red/blue associations must either be reffered to
              particular times and areas, if they are indeed true. Some may even be reasons
              chosen after the fact. One of these latter cases are apparently the crescents
              commonly found at the feet of Virgins, and which have been associated with
              pre-christian deities, but these crescents don't usually appear in the
              medieval figures, only in later ones, AFAIK.
              But I am still intrigued at all the various arguments and see how well and
              how far they hold up. I also want to look into different manuscripts to check
              whether my impresson was correct or not. And I will be happy if proved wrong.

              All the best,


              Marianne
            • Zohra Rawling
              well I had answered quickly that blue was the colour of heaven but there is more to it in the Assyrian tradition. Ishtar has a necklace of lapis lazuli that
              Message 6 of 7 , Oct 2, 2001
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                well I had answered quickly that blue was the colour of heaven but there
                is more to it in the Assyrian tradition.

                Ishtar has a necklace of lapis lazuli that was given to her by her father
                the Sky God.

                also blue keeps away the evil eye because it is the colour of heaven.
                (I personally am fond of lapis lazuli)

                I know that in the assyrian church Mary is clothed in blue.


                hope this helps some


                Ysabella
              • Danielle Nunn-Weinberg
                Greetings, As far as I know, there is no one *right* answer to that and the other answers pretty much cover the standard reasons given. : ) Cheers, Gwendoline
                Message 7 of 7 , Oct 2, 2001
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                  Greetings,

                  As far as I know, there is no one *right* answer to that and the other
                  answers pretty much cover the standard reasons given. : )

                  Cheers,
                  Gwendoline

                  At 06:28 AM 10/2/2001 +0000, you wrote:
                  >I have been hanging out with friends and talking about art when the
                  >question was posed, "Why is the Virgin always wearing red and blue?"
                  >Of course, as an art history student, I feel embarassed that I don't
                  >know the answer, and proceded to look it up in books, to no avail.
                  >Then I got on line, where the only thing I could find out was that
                  >blue symbolized purity and peacefulness. Any more ideas or books I
                  >could look into? Gwendoline?
                  >
                  >Many thanks in advance,
                  >Elisabetta
                  >
                  >
                  >
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