February 12, 2016
Hey! How are you? How are the paintings coming along? I hope you used your new art kit. I have heard that LUM’s has a wonderful art program so I hope you are doing well!
Anyway, let’s get to the interesting part the real reason why I am writing back to you today is because I recently started some research on…wait for it: the history of colors!
Yes yes, I am fully aware about how boring you think my job is being a history teacher and all but I have learnt some pretty interesting things about colors the past few days.
Recently, I discovered that color dying was extremely back in the day. I was pretty surprised when I found out considering how often I have taken my niece to get her clothes dyed and how cheap it is!
So, have you heard of the famous chemist Henry Perkins? I am researching his work to teach my students and basically he was responsible for creating mauve dye in 1856. That’s how far back color dye goes. Can you believe it?
I spoke to a few fellow teachers about this chemist and she told me how-in that era the Byzantine emperors paid a ton of money to purchase the dye for their robes. This color was a royal, deep purple mixed with red called Tyrian purple.
I also purchased an interesting book called, ‘The Medieval Artist’ and in this book I read that in the fourteenth century the color ultramarine blue became quite popular.
Infact this color was described as, “a color illustrious, beautiful and most perfect, beyond all other colors.” by the talented Italian artist/painter called Cennino Cennini. Try saying that three times fast!
This beautiful blue pigment was prepared from lapis lazuli, a blue stone found in a small village on the coast of Afghanistan. I watched a video on how they made this color from stone and unlike other minerals if this one was grinded it would turn into a boring gray color.
To work around this, the workers manually separated the impurities by kneading the powdered mineral with wax.
To be completely honest I think you will enjoy this part the most, infact I have a feeling you might already know about this. Well in the medieval ages, the artists refused to paint regular or ‘realistic’ subjects; they were almost always symbolic or religious paintings considering the fact that most of these artists were monks. Most holy figures were painted using this ultramarine blue.
I really think you should get this book because it really has some impressive and interesting stories. Ten out of ten, would recommend!
Did you know that Queen Victoria wore black after the death of her husband for forty years? Haha well you don’t even need death to wear black that much! Okay okay, too far.
Anyway, did you know that in the Indian culture, women are to wear white and no other color if they become widows? Imagine that! I would never be able to handle the responsibility of wearing every single day of my life!
I watched a bollywood movie with my niece a few days back- with subtitles of course. The movie was about a Hindu family who suffered from a horrible fate which was that all the men in that family would pass only after a few years and so most of that family consisted of sisters, wives, daughters, and obviously widows!
At that point in the movie there is only one man in the family and he is talking to his daughter about how the ‘Nani’ in other words, grandmother finally wore some color which was the little blue flashes on her new white runners.
You already know how emotional I get so of course, with the sad melody playing in the background, the pretty little girl and the father-daughter moment I eventually did break down in tears. Ugh!
The history of colors and how they were practically worshipped even by Roman emperors, the importance and dedication of the Hindu women to their life partners even after their passing. All these facts, stories and books fascinated me and so I thought you should know too, considering how much you love art!
Well I guess that is all. Hope you enjoyed having to read this long letter. I miss you terribly and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Lots of love,