He used cobalt blue , invented in , cerulean blue invented in , and French ultramarine , first made in
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Christmas Pajamas for the Family. Under the sea, red and other light with longer wavelengths is absorbed, so white objects appear blue. The deeper you go, the darker the blue becomes. In the open sea, only about one per cent of light penetrates to a depth of metres. See underwater and euphotic depth. A blue supergiant is even bigger.
Blue eyes do not actually contain any blue pigment. Eye colour is determined by two factors: The appearance of blue, green, and hazel eyes results from the Rayleigh scattering of light in the stroma, an optical effect similar to what accounts for the blueness of the sky.
Eye colour also varies depending on the lighting conditions, especially for lighter-coloured eyes. In the United States, as of , one out of every six people, or Blue eyes are becoming less common among American children. In the US, boys are 3—5 per cent more likely to have blue eyes than girls. Blue was a latecomer among colours used in art and decoration, as well as language and literature.
Blue was also not used for dyeing fabric until long after red, ochre, pink and purple. This is probably due to the perennial difficulty of making good blue dyes and pigments.
Lapis lazuli, a semi-precious stone, has been mined in Afghanistan for more than three thousand years, and was exported to all parts of the ancient world. This is considered the first synthetic pigment.
It was particularly used in funeral statuary and figurines and in tomb paintings. Blue was considered a beneficial colour which would protect the dead against evil in the afterlife.
Blue dye was also used to colour the cloth in which mummies were wrapped. In Egypt blue was associated with the sky and with divinity. The Egyptian god Amun could make his skin blue so that he could fly, invisible, across the sky. Blue could also protect against evil; many people around the Mediterranean still wear a blue amulet, representing the eye of God, to protect them from misfortune.
They also added cobalt, which produced a deeper blue, the same blue produced in the Middle Ages in the stained glass windows of the cathedrals of Saint-Denis and Chartres. The ancient Greeks classified colours by whether they were light or dark, rather than by their hue. The Greek word for dark blue, kyaneos , could also mean dark green, violet, black or brown. The ancient Greek word for a light blue, glaukos , also could mean light green, grey, or yellow. It was not one of the four primary colours for Greek painting described by Pliny the Elder red, yellow, black, and white , but nonetheless it was used as a background colour behind the friezes on Greek temples and to colour the beards of Greek statues.
The Romans also imported indigo dye, but blue was the colour of working class clothing; the nobles and rich wore white, black, red or violet. Blue was considered the colour of mourning, and the colour of barbarians. Julius Caesar reported that the Celts and Germans dyed their faces blue to frighten their enemies, and tinted their hair blue when they grew old. According to Vitruvius , they made dark blue pigment from indigo, and imported Egyptian blue pigment.
The walls of Roman villas in Pompeii had frescoes of brilliant blue skies, and blue pigments were found in the shops of colour merchants. Lapis lazuli pendant from Mesopotamia c. A hippopotamus decorated with aquatic plants, made of faience with a blue glaze, made to resemble lapis lazuli. Egyptian blue colour in a tomb painting c. The figure is made of faience with a blue glaze, designed to resemble turquoise. A lion against a blue background from the Ishtar Gate of ancient Babylon.
Dark blue was widely used in the decoration of churches in the Byzantine Empire. In Byzantine art Christ and the Virgin Mary usually wore dark blue or purple. Blue was used as a background colour representing the sky in the magnificent mosaics which decorated Byzantine churches.
In the Islamic world, blue was of secondary importance to green, believed to be the favourite colour of the Prophet Mohammed. At certain times in Moorish Spain and other parts of the Islamic world, blue was the colour worn by Christians and Jews, because only Muslims were allowed to wear white and green. Lapis lazuli pigment was also used to create the rich blues in Persian miniatures.
Blue Byzantine mosaic ceiling representing the night sky in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna , Italy 5th century. Blue mosaic in the cloak of Christ in the Hagia Sophia church in Istanbul 13th century. Glazed stone-paste bowl from Persia 12th century. Decorated page of a Koran from Persia AD. Blue tile on the facade of the Friday Mosque in Herat , Afghanistan 15th century.
Persian miniature from the 16th century. Flower-pattern tile from Iznik , Turkey, from the second half of the 16th century. In the art and life of Europe during the early Middle Ages, blue played a minor role. The nobility wore red or purple, while only the poor wore blue clothing, coloured with poor-quality dyes made from the woad plant. Blue played no part in the rich costumes of the clergy or the architecture or decoration of churches. He installed stained glass windows coloured with cobalt , which, combined with the light from the red glass, filled the church with a bluish violet light.
The church became the marvel of the Christian world, and the colour became known as the "bleu de Saint-Denis". In the years that followed even more elegant blue stained glass windows were installed in other churches, including at Chartres Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
Another important factor in the increased prestige of the colour blue in the 12th century was the veneration of the Virgin Mary , and a change in the colours used to depict her clothing. In earlier centuries her robes had usually been painted in sombre black, grey, violet, dark green or dark blue. In the 12th century the Roma Catholic Church dictated that painters in Italy and the rest of Europe consequently to paint the Virgin Mary with the new most expensive pigment imported from Asia; ultramarine.
Ultramarine was made from lapis lazuli, from the mines of Badakshan , in the mountains of Afghanistan, near the source of the Oxus River. The mines were visited by Marco Polo in about ; he reported, "here is found a high mountain from which they extract the finest and most beautiful of blues. Ultramarine refined out the impurities through a long and difficult process, creating a rich and deep blue.
It was called bleu outremer in French and blu oltremare in Italian, since it came from the other side of the sea. It cost far more than any other colour, and it became the luxury colour for the Kings and Princes of Europe.
This was copied by other nobles. Paintings of the mythical King Arthur began to show him dressed in blue. The coat of arms of the kings of France became an azure or light blue shield, sprinkled with golden fleur-de-lis or lilies. Blue had come from obscurity to become the royal colour. Once blue became the colour of the king, it also became the colour of the wealthy and powerful in Europe. In the Middle Ages in France and to some extent in Italy, the dyeing of blue cloth was subject to license from the crown or state.
In Italy, the dyeing of blue was assigned to a specific guild, the tintori di guado, and could not be done by anyone else without severe penalty. The wearing of blue implied some dignity and some wealth. Besides ultramarine, several other blues were widely used in the Middle Ages and later in the Renaissance. Azurite , a form of copper carbonate, was often used as a substitute for ultramarine.
The Romans used it under the name lapis armenius, or Armenian stone. The British called it azure of Amayne, or German azure. The Germans themselves called it bergblau, or mountain stone. It was mined in France, Hungary, Spain and Germany, and it made a pale blue with a hint of green, which was ideal for painting skies.
It was a favourite background colour of the German painter Albrecht Dürer. Another blue often used in the Middle Ages was called tournesol or folium. It was made from the plant Crozophora tinctoria , which grew in the south of France. It made a fine transparent blue valued in medieval manuscripts. Another common blue pigment was smalt , which was made by grinding blue cobalt glass into a fine powder.
It made a deep violet blue similar to ultramarine, and was vivid in frescoes, but it lost some of its brilliance in oil paintings. It became especially popular in the 17th century, when ultramarine was difficult to obtain. The Maesta by Duccio showed the Virgin Mary in a robe painted with ultramarine. Blue became the colour of holiness, virtue and humility.
In the Renaissance, a revolution occurred in painting; artists began to paint the world as it was actually seen, with perspective, depth, shadows, and light from a single source. Artists had to adapt their use of blue to the new rules. In medieval paintings, blue was used to attract the attention of the viewer to the Virgin Mary, and identify her. In Renaissance paintings, artists tried to create harmonies between blue and red, lightening the blue with lead white paint and adding shadows and highlights.
Raphael was a master of this technique, carefully balancing the reds and the blues so no one colour dominated the picture. Ultramarine was the most prestigious blue of the Renaissance, and patrons sometimes specified that it be used in paintings they commissioned. The contract for the Madone des Harpies by Andrea del Sarto required that the robe of the Virgin Mary be coloured with ultramarine costing "at least five good florins an ounce. Often painters or clients saved money by using less expensive blues, such as azurite smalt, or pigments made with indigo, but this sometimes caused problems.
Pigments made from azurite were less expensive, but tended to turn dark and green with time. The Virgin Mary's azurite blue robe has degraded into a greenish-black. The introduction of oil painting changed the way colours looked and how they were used. Ultramarine pigment, for instance, was much darker when used in oil painting than when used in tempera painting, in frescoes. To balance their colours, Renaissance artists like Raphael added white to lighten the ultramarine.
The sombre dark blue robe of the Virgin Mary became a brilliant sky blue. He also used layers of finely ground or coarsely ground ultramarine, which gave subtle variations to the blue. Giotto was one of the first Italian Renaissance painters to use ultramarine , here in the murals of the Arena Chapel in Padua circa Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, the robes of the Virgin Mary were painted with ultramarine. Blue fills the picture. In the Madonna of the Meadow , Raphael used white to soften the ultramarine blue of Virgin Mary's robes to balance the red and blue, and to harmonise with the rest of the picture.
Titian used an ultramarine sky and robes to give depth and brilliance to his Bacchus and Ariadne — It was painted with less-expensive azurite. The Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry was the most important illuminated manuscript of the 15th century.
The blue was the extravagantly expensive ultramarine. In about the 9th century, Chinese artisans abandoned the Han blue colour they had used for centuries, and began to use cobalt blue , made with cobalt salts of alumina , to manufacture fine blue and white porcelain , The plates and vases were shaped, dried, the paint applied with a brush, covered with a clear glaze, then fired at a high temperature.
Beginning in the 14th century, this type of porcelain was exported in large quantity to Europe where it inspired a whole style of art, called Chinoiserie. European courts tried for many years to imitate Chinese blue and white porcelain, but only succeeded in the 18th century after a missionary brought the secret back from China. Chinese blue and white porcelain from about , made in Jingdezhen, the porcelain centre of China.
Exported to Europe, this porcelain launched the style of Chinoiserie. A soft-paste porcelain vase made in Rouen , France, at the end of the 17th century, imitating Chinese blue and white. Eighteenth century blue and white pottery from Delft , in the Netherlands. Russian porcelain of the cobalt net pattern, made with cobalt blue pigment. This pattern, first produced in , was copied after a design made for Catherine the Great.
While blue was an expensive and prestigious colour in European painting, it became a common colour for clothing during the Renaissance. The rise of the colour blue in fashion in the 12th and 13th centuries led to a blue dye industry in several cities, notably Amiens , Toulouse , and Erfurt. They made a dye called pastel from woad , a plant common in Europe, which had been used to make blue dye by the Celts and German tribes.
Blue became a colour worn by domestics and artisans, not just nobles. In , when Pope Pius V listed the colours that could be used for ecclesiastical dress and for altar decoration, he excluded blue, because he considered it too common.
The process of making blue with woad was long and noxious — it involved soaking the leaves of the plant for from three days to a week in human urine, ideally urine from men who had been drinking a great deal of alcohol, which was said to improve the colour.
The fabric was then soaked for a day in the resulting mixture, then put out in the sun, where as it dried it turned blue. The pastel industry was threatened in the 15th century by the arrival from India of the same dye indigo , obtained from a shrub widely grown in Asia. The Asian indigo dye precursors is more readily obtained. In , Vasco de Gama opened a trade route to import indigo from India to Europe.
In India, the indigo leaves were soaked in water, fermented, pressed into cakes, dried into bricks, then carried to the ports London, Marseille, Genoa, and Bruges. The countries with large and prosperous pastel industries tried to block the use of indigo. The German government outlawed the use of indigo in , describing it as a "pernicious, deceitful and corrosive substance, the Devil's dye.
The efforts to block indigo were in vain; the quality of indigo blue was too high and the price too low for pastel made from woad to compete.
In both the French and German governments finally allowed the use of indigo. This ruined the dye industries in Toulouse and the other cities that produced pastel, but created a thriving new indigo commerce to seaports such as Bordeaux, Nantes and Marseille. Another war of the blues took place at the end of the 19th century, between indigo and synthetic indigo, discovered in by the German chemist Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Adolf von Baeyer.
The German chemical firm BASF put the new dye on the market in , in direct competition with the British-run indigo industry in India, which produced most of the world's indigo. In Britain sold ten thousand tons of natural indigo on the world market, while BASF sold six hundred tons of synthetic indigo. The British industry cut prices and reduced the salaries of its workers, but it was unable to compete; the synthetic indigo was more pure, made a more lasting blue, and was not dependent upon good or bad harvests.
In , India sold only tons of natural indigo, while BASF sold 22, tons of synthetic indigo. In , more than 38, tons of synthetic indigo was produced, often for the production of blue jeans. Isatis tinctoria , or woad, was the main source of blue dye in Europe from ancient times until the arrival of indigo from Asia and America.
It was processed into a paste called pastel. A woad mill in Thuringia , in Germany, in The woad industry was already on its way to extinction, unable to compete with indigo blue. A Dutch tapestry from to The blue colour comes from woad. Indigofera tinctoria , a tropical shrub, is the main source of indigo dye.
The chemical composition of indigo dye is the same as that of woad, but the colour is more intense. The leaf has been soaked in water, fermented, mixed with lye or another base, then pressed into cakes and dried, ready for export.
In the 17th century, Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburg , was one of the first rulers to give his army blue uniforms. The reasons were economic; the German states were trying to protect their pastel dye industry against competition from imported indigo dye. When Brandenburg became the Kingdom of Prussia in , the uniform colour was adopted by the Prussian army.
Most German soldiers wore dark blue uniforms until the First World War , with the exception of the Bavarians, who wore light blue.
Thanks in part to the availability of indigo dye, the 18th century saw the widespread use of blue military uniforms. Prior to , British naval officers simply wore upper-class civilian clothing and wigs. In , the British uniform for naval officers was officially established as an embroidered coat of the colour then called marine blue, now known as navy blue. In the late 18th century, the blue uniform became a symbol of liberty and revolution.
In October , even before the United States declared its independence, George Mason and one hundred Virginia neighbours of George Washington organised a voluntary militia unit the Fairfax County Independent Company of Volunteers and elected Washington the honorary commander. For their uniforms they chose blue and buff , the colours of the Whig Party , the opposition party in England, whose policies were supported by George Washington and many other patriots in the American colonies.
When the Continental Army was established in at the outbreak of the American Revolution , the first Continental Congress declared that the official uniform colour would be brown, but this was not popular with many militias, whose officers were already wearing blue.
In the Congress asked George Washington to design a new uniform, and in Washington made the official colour of all uniforms blue and buff.
Blue continued to be the colour of the field uniform of the US Army until , and is still the colour of the dress uniform.
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