Saturday, May 29, 2010


In our final look at Victoria Finlay's book 'Colour, Travels Through the Paintbox', we look at the chapter entitled RED. The author's quest for carmine leads her to pre-colonial America, specifically to Santiago in Chile. Here she discovers the reds of the Incas. The Incas had numerous reds; deep pinks from the wood of the brazil tree, orange-coloured dye from the dried annatto plant seeds but the most treasured red was the ruby red colour derived from the cochineal insect. This cochinal red was used as blusher and used in the decorating of pottery and of textiles. The author discusses the differences between the origin of carmine red and the cochineal red used by Turner in the 19th Century and also the red derived from the cochineals Indo-European cousin the Kermes insect which had been used a few centuries earlier. She also refers to the Polish Cochineal, a cousin to the Kermes, whose red dye was found on a Persian rug that had been knotted 2,500 years ago. The chapter also examines the reds that come from the plant root, madder and the mineral cinnabar. 

The other chapters in this book include the colours OCHRE,  BLACK and BROWN, WHITE, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, INDIGO, and VIOLET. 'Colour, Travels Through the Painbox', was recently presented by Mr. Brett to the SCC Library where it now resides.