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Blue: The History of a Color

by Michel Pastoureau Princeton University Press
Pub Date:
03/2018
ISBN:
9780691181363
Format:
Hbk 216 pages
Price:
AU$79.99 NZ$82.60
Product Status: In Stock Now
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Blue has had a long and topsy-turvy history in the Western world. The ancient Greeks scorned it as ugly and barbaric, but most Americans and Europeans now cite it as their favorite color. In this fascinating history, the renowned medievalist Michel Pastoureau traces the changing meanings of blue from its rare appearance in prehistoric art to its international ubiquity today.


 


Any history of color is, above all, a social history. Pastoureau investigates how the ever-changing role of blue in society has been reflected in manuscripts, stained glass, heraldry, clothing, paintings, and popular culture. Beginning with the almost total absence of blue from ancient Western art and language, the story moves to medieval Europe. As people began to associate blue with the Virgin Mary, the color became a powerful element in church decoration and symbolism. Blue gained new favor as a royal color in the twelfth century and became a formidable political and military force during the French Revolution. As blue triumphed in the modern era, new shades were created and blue became the color of romance and the blues. Finally, Pastoureau follows blue into contemporary times, when military clothing gave way to the everyday uniform of blue jeans and blue became the universal and unifying color of the Earth as seen from space.


 


Beautifully illustrated, Blue tells the intriguing story of our favorite color and the cultures that have hated it, loved it, and made it essential to some of our greatest works of art.


 


 


 


INTRODUCTION
Color is Not Black and White 7
1. AN UNCOMMON COLOR
Prehistory to the Twelfth Century 13
2. A NEW COLOR
The Eleventh to the Fourteenth Century 49
3. A MORAL COLOR
The Fifteenth to the Seventeenth Century 85
4. THE FAVORITE COLOR
The Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century 123
5. BLUE TODAY 179
Notes 182
Bibliography 206
Index 213
Photography Credits 216


"The material history of a certain section of the spectrum, from the costly tones of the Virgin's cloak to uniforms, Picasso and jeans. History can make you blind, but some historians can make you see again."--James Davidson, Daily Telegraph


 
Michel Pastoureau is a historian and emeritus director of studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études de la Sorbonne in Paris. A specialist in the history of colors, symbols, and heraldry, he is the author of many books, including Red, Green, and Black (all Princeton) and The Devil's Cloth: A History of Stripes. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages.