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Green: The History of a Color

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Table of Contents

Introduction 7 An uncertain color (From the beginning to the year 1000) 11 Did the Greeks see green? 14 Green among the Romans 20 The emerald and the leek 26 Hippodrome green 31 The silences of the Bible and the church fathers 36 A middle color 40 Islamic green 46 A courtly color (11th-14th centuries) 51 The beauty of green 54 A place for green: the orchard 58 A time for green: the spring 65 Youth, love, and hope 71 A chivalrous color 78 A green hero: Tristan 83 A dangerous color (14th-16th centuries) 87 Satan's green bestiary 90 From green to greenish 97 The green knight 103 The dyer's vats 112 "Gay green" and "lost green" 118 Heraldic green 125 The colors of the poet 129 A secondary color (16th-19th centuries) 135 Protestant morals 138 The green of painters 142 New knowledge, new classifications 152 Alceste's ribbons and the green of the theater 155 Superstitions and fairy tales 159 Green in the age of the enlightenment 167 A romantic color? 172 A soothing color (19th-21st centuries) 179 A fashionable color 182 Return to the palette 186 Chevreul and the scientists did not like green 193 Neither did Kandinsky or the Bauhaus 200 Green in everyday life 205 Nature in the heart of the cities 209 Green today 217 Acknowledgments 223 Notes 224 Bibliography 235 Photography credits 240

About the Author

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


One of The Guardian's Best Books of 2014 One of's "In the Good Books" 2014 One of The Globe and Mail 75 Book Ideas for Christmas 2014 "[C]omprehensive and lavishly illustrated."---Natalie Angier, New York Times "[S]umptuously illustrated... These are books to look at, but they are also books to read... Individual colors find their being only in relation to each other, and their cultural force depends on the particular instance of their use. They have no separate life or essential meaning. They have been made to mean, and in these volumes that human endeavor has found its historian."--Michael Gorra, New York Review of Books "Pastoureau's engaging cultural history of the color green tackles art history and color theory... With the look and feel of an artbook, this book holds equal amounts of substance of in the text... His anecdotes are insightful, the references occasionally delightfully esoteric... [H]e gives this substantial discussion further contemporary relevance."--Publishers Weekly "Beautifully illustrated."--Daily Mail "From the ample green gown in Jan van Eyck's painting "The Arnolfini Wedding" to the chartreuse and shamrock in Paolo Veronese's work, from Paul Cezanne's apples to Kees van Dongen's Fauvist use of mint and jungle greens, there's much to sink your eyes into."--Mary Louise Schumacher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "As this beautifully illustrated work shows, the 'uneasiness' of being green is what makes its story so interesting."--Fiona Capp, Sydney Morning Herald "[C]easelessly fascinating and erudite."--Michael Glover, Independent "We absolutely loved this book and we didn't merely read it, we read it twice... Colors are not just colors: they have a history and we can't imagine it ever being superseded by anything more than what Michel Pastoureau has accomplished in his monumental work, Green. Designers of all ilks everywhere need to read this book, and the prior colors (Blue and Black) and future colors he comes out with as well. The thought process, planning and impeccable research that must have gone into this book is prodigious... [T]hough Kermit said it's not easy being green, reading this book is an easy decision! ... This is a hefty tome that lends credence to the academic side of fashion theory... Pastoureau has provided us with a tour de force erudite approach to color... [P]ut it on your Christmas gift list for anyone in the fashion or art world. It's a must to own, and so much fun as a read. Academically speaking, it's popular culture at its best... Green is highly recommended by Whom You Know!"--Whom You Know "[Pastoureau's] pleasantly rambling illustrated narrative charts the changing place of green in Western thought, art and life, from prehistory to the present day."--Caroline Bugler, World of Interiors "[S]prightly... Green is a dash through domains and contexts as varied yet related as optics, clothing manufacture, vexillology, literature, color lexicons, and the history of painting... The point, Pastoureau emphasizes, is that green is, among the colors, exquisitely unstable--both in color theory and in real-life manufacture... Pastoureau is fascinating in describing the long decline of green in the period just before the Age of Revolution."--Eric Banks, Chronicle Review "Michel Pastoureau's Green: The History of a Color is an interesting look at how this sometimes forgotten hue has been perceived in art, fashion, and culture. Beautiful art and a thorough historical survey make this book an irresistible read."--Traditional Home "It ain't easy being ... a book about the colour green. Pastoureau shows us what green has signified at various points in various cultures, and the book illuminates the journey with its bright design."--Globe and Mail "Matching historical detail to artistic and cultural works of art, Pastoureau demonstrates that green richly deserves its place in both the bygone and the contemporary palette."--Lara Killian, PopMatters "In Green: The History of a Color, Michel Pastoureau shows all of the possibilities in just one band of the spectrum... Pastoureau's approach is elegant and revelatory... Green's text is choreographed with accompanying artwork to produce a skillfully designed embarrassment of riches. Clearly, one or two sumptuary laws are being violated. John Calvin is rotating in his grave with enough energy to create prop wash. The paper has heft but not weight. The cover reminds us that we are in a High Age of dust jacket design (the hard cover underneath is no poor relative, either). Text, art, design, materials: a book's book. Open it on plane or train and catch the envious spark--green, of course--in your neighbor's eye."--Peter Lewis, Barnes and Noble Review "A charming study, filled with numerous photos and illustrations. This book will be of great interest to those fascinated by history, culture, and design."--Library Journal "Taking great care not to project present-day definitions, classifications, and conceptions of color onto the past, he follows green's history from early negative associations and its notoriously fugitive pigments to its evolved status as the color of money, fecundity, nature, and environmental concerns... As a companion volume to the author's previous titles, Blue and Black, or as a stand-alone work, this highly anecdotal and beautifully written book belongs in the collection of every library."--Choice "[A] splendid work, vastly informative and beautifully produced... I once toyed with the idea of writing a book on the theme myself and must confess that Pastoureau's book is immeasurably superior to the one I had planned. If only there were a color that signified envy."--Kevin Jackson, Literary Review "Pastoureau's lifetime of research and consideration provide the strong historical and theoretical basis of this excellent study. It is fascinating to recognize that something as seemingly constant as a color is constantly changing, both in actual fact and in how we interpret it. For anyone interested in becoming more familiar with the colors that beautify and enrich our lives, or for anyone interested in thumbing through a richly illustrated, fantastically intelligent book, Green: The History of a Color, is intensely rewarding."--Stephan Delbos, Body Praise for the French edition:"A beautiful presentation of a long-unloved color."--Daphne Betard, Beaux-Arts Praise for the French edition:"A beautiful book that opens the windows wide."--Marie Chaudey, La Vie

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