I just read an article today about how colorful the ancient world of Greece really was. We think of all the alabaster white sculptures and respond, "huh?" Yes, the last few years we've heard rumblings from the academic world about how ancient Greece really was a riot of color, not the pure white we have thought it was. Brilliant yellows, reds, greens and blues, all jewel tones, adorned their art but were leached away over time as they lay buried in the earth. When they were excavated, just the marble was left, the color long gone.
What I learned was that the early Greeks had no fixatives for their pigments so they were very unstable and the artist was unable to predict how a color would turn out. Thus, the color red could be anything "from pink to purple". Pigments were created from a variety of things in nature, and the more rare that thing was, the more expensive and more rare the color. For example, the color purple, long associated with royalty in the West, was made from snails found off the coast of Phoenicia. Since it was such a rare color, and very costly, only the very rich or the very royal, could afford it. Thus the early association with royalty!
Here are a few of the colors from ancient Greece and what they symbolized:
Red: this was a color associated with transitions of all kinds. A boy moving into adulthood wore a red cape; a bride wore a red veil; and death shrouds were red. All big life transitional stages.
Black: way back then it was associated with mourning but with the extra layer of showing how well to do you were! Black dyes were hard to achieve so the blacker they were, the richer you were!
Purple: If you were listening above, it was: ?????? (royalty!)
White: It was associated with young, feminine pale skin.
Hope you have enjoyed this peek into the past. Have a great weekend!