Inventive and imaginative, Ultra Violet lights the way to what is yet to come.
"Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now. The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own.
Enigmatic purples have also long been symbolic of counterculture, unconventionality, and artistic brilliance. Nuanced and full of emotion, the depth of PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet symbolizes experimentation and non-conformity, spurring individuals to imagine their unique mark on the world, and push boundaries through creative outlets."
... so it says the Pantone website.
For my part, I wanted to look into the history of purple and violet, and highlight the place of this color in the context of fashion history.
On the colour wheel, purple sits between blue and red. Some might call it violet, or mauve, but whatever you call it, it is the most refracted colour when light is passed through a prism; at the very end of the visible colour spectrum and the hardest colour for the eye to discriminate.
Symbolism of color purple and violet came out from the cost of the original dye. Since ancient times purple vestments were the preserve of the rich. Therefore, since antiquity, purple has symbolized luxury, wealth, and power in many cultures. Balanced between the passion of red and the reason of blue, purple also symbolizes temperance and considered action.
In the ancient world the most famous color was the Tyrian purple dye, also known as "imperial" purple as it was more expensive than gold, and came to symbolize the rank of a Roman emperor. In medieval Europe blue dyes were expensive, and the bluer shade of "royal purple"acquired equivalent symbolism. In the Roman Catholic Church, violet is used during Advent and Lent for priests' robes and church drapery, symbolizing Christ's death and resurrection. In Europe violet was the color of "half mourning"during the 19th century.
The symbolism of the violet flower has changed from excess as it was worn in Dionysian orgies, to modesty (as in "shrinking violet"). White violets symbolize innocence, and blue violets fidelity. [1.]
Purple dye inventors in the ancient world were Phoenicians. Their contribution was well-known, and this made them famous, but the discovery of purple - legendary.
Some historians reported that the Greeks gave them the name of Phoenician (Greek phoenix) in relation to the purple color, that once made them famous. The legend tells that the discovery of the purple was attributed to the god Melqart. While he was walking on the beach with the nymph Tyros, his dog found a Murex and munched on it. Its jaws tinged in purple. The nymph admired the color and asked the god to offer her a cloth with such a beautiful color. In order to please his sweetheart, Melqart, ordered to collect the seashells and to prepare a tincture of this crimson color, and make a purple tunic that would delight the heart of the nymph.
From an archaeological point of view, the old remains of the dye-works discovered on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea, proved that the purple dye industry existed there since the ancient times. In written documents, testimonials about purple great value are numerous and varied.
The first historical record of the dye is in texts from Ugarit and Hittite sources, which indicate that the manufacture of Tyrian purple began in the 14th century BCE in the eastern Mediterranean. Cloth dyed with Tyrian purple was a hugely successful export and brought the Phoenicians fame throughout the ancient world. Indeed, some historians claim that the name Phoenicia is derived from the Greek word phoinos meaning ‘dark red’ which also refers to the dye and may itself be a translation of the Akkadian word for both Canaan and red, kinahhu. Despite their formidable reputation, the dyers of Tyre did not have a monopoly on the process even in the Late Bronze Age as four Linear B tablets from Knossos indicate that it was manufactured on the island of Crete too, which also had a supply of the shellfish in its coastal waters. [7.]
In Assyrian registers, a mural inscription, from the eighth century BC, mentions this wool in the tributes list of an Assyrian king. Under the reign of Tiglath-Pileser III (744-721 BC), the Phoenician cities added rich clothing in purple, with the precious gifts in gold and silver, sent to the Assyrian monarchs.
During the Persian period (550-330 BC), only kings were worthy to dress with purple fabrics. After the conquest of Egypt, Cambyses, king of Persia, prepared an expedition, in 525 BC, against Ethiopia. Herodotus relates that he dispatched spies, "the fish eaters, with gifts of which a purple coat, a collar and braided gold bracelets, and alabaster box containing incense with an earthenware jar filled with palm wine. ". [8.]
In the beginning of Roman times, the prerogative of wearing the purple was extended to senators and priests, becoming the symbol of power or high dignity. Plutarch also mentions the purple color in the Life of Romulus: "And many were the people who came together, while he (Romulus ) himself sat in front, among his chief men, clad in purple", and by reporting the criticism against him, "to renounce his popular ways, and to change to the ways of a monarch, […]. For he dressed in a scarlet tunic, and wore over it a toga bordered with purple".
Pliny the Elder (AD 23 – AD 79), in the ninth book of his Natural History, describes the splendor and luxury represented by the purple. At the time of Nero, the capital punishment was imposed, with confiscation of properties, for those who would dress, or even buy, the imperial purple. In Constantinople, the emperor's bedroom was painted with purple color, and his son, who was born in this room, enjoyed the prestige of having the nickname of Porphyrogenitus: "born in the purple". [8.]
Mauve Of The Victorian Age
The first synthetic dye was discovered by a teenager in 1856, who accidentally made a purple dye that would soon become the height of fashion in Victorian England. William Henry Perkin originally set out to discover a synthetic alternative to quinine. As he cleaned up his experiments with aniline, he noticed a thick black residue at the bottom of a flask. After further experimentation with diluting the sludge, Perkin realized that the mixture could be used to dye silk and that the dye would retain its color. Until that point, purple dyes always faded fairly quickly. Perkin initially called his new dye "Tyrian Purple," but it was later known as "mauve." Mauve quickly became all the rage in English high fashion. [9.]
Since 1856, when chemistry student Perkin discovered synthetic purple he also produced the first synthetic aniline dye, a purple shade called mauveine, shortened to mauve. The name was derived from the mallow flower, which is the same color. The newly discovered color quickly became fashionable, especially in Victorian England when Queen Victoria wore a silk gown dyed with mauveine to the Royal Exhibition of 1862.
Even before Perkin's discovery, mauve and also purple as well, were the colors that only the aristocracy and rich could afford to wear. This notable discovery was the starting point of an industrial process that allowed to produce mauve, so almost anyone could wear it. Modern industrial dyes made a considerable impact to fashion industry since then.
Color Of Royalty
The reason for purple’s regal reputation comes down to a simple case of supply and demand. For centuries, the purple dye trade was centered in the ancient Phoenician city of Tyre in modern day Lebanon. The Phoenicians prepared their purple color from a species of sea snail now known as Bolinus brandaris, and it was so exceedingly rare that it became worth its weight in gold. To harvest it, dye-makers had to crack open the snail’s shell, extract a purple-producing mucus and expose it to sunlight for a precise amount of time. It took as many as 250,000 mollusks to yield just one ounce of usable dye, but the result was a vibrant and long-lasting shade of purple.
Clothes made from the dye were really expensive! The pound of purple wool cost more than most people earned in a year, so, purple clothes were reserved only for the rich and powerful. It also carried divine connotations as the Tyrian purple resembled the color of clotted blood. [10.]
The royal purple monopoly that was established in ancient world finally waned after the fall of the Byzantine empire in the 15th century. The color of purple anyway did not become more widely available until the discovery of Perkin and when the first synthetic dyes hit the market. [11.]
Trivia Of Purple & Violet.
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My name is Edīte Parute and I am a fashion historian and researcher from Latvia, association member at "The Association of Dress Historians" (UK) and author of the book "Stila un modes enciklopēdija"/"Encyclopedia of Style and Fashion" (2010) as well as author of many publications.
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