Friday, 24 October 2014

The Allure and Power of Red

In the last month everyone has come out talking about the power of red and its historical connection to powerful people. From Vogue to the BBC, journalism and fashion are enthralled by the multitude interpretations of red. Red is associated with passion and glamour. Red stimulates energy and increases enthusiasm, it encourages confidence and action, promotes ambition and determination, it gives a sense of protection from fears and anxieties, and it even makes the colours around it more interesting. In fact Yves Saint Laurent called red the ‘colour of love, battle, death, and warmth’.

Bohemian drinking tumbler, c1890 - 1900. Offered by Nadine Okker

Deco armchair re-upholstered in red velvet, offered by Thirteen Upholstery Workshop

In a context depended world, red has a turbulent history. A monarch on the way to his or her coronation wears parliamentary robes which are red. Indian brides traditionally wear red. In ancient Rome, brides wore a veil of flame red colour over their hair that draped them completely as a deterrent to evil spirits entering the bride through a simple muslin veil.

By the fourteenth century brilliant scarlet was the most esteemed colour in Europe. In Tudor England, successive legislations were passed that governed the wearing of expensive clothing and red was one of the colours most strictly controlled. It was a case of having the status to demonstrate wealth, and since red was the most expensive of dyes both legislation and etiquette influenced its production, use and cultural associations.

1960s Harrods felt hat, offered by June Victor
A decorative French glass 1950s unsigned bowl, offered by Horner Antiques

1950s convex mirror, offered by Andrew Martin

Before synthetic dyes were developed red was achieved in various ways using natural products. Of those the most expensive was kermes vermilio, a dye of ancient origin made from the desiccated bodies of insects which produced a very luscious crimson. It was imported from Spain and Portugal into England and was subject to heavy import duties. Kermes dyes were replaced by Mexican cochineal following the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.

Paintings of Henry VIII portray him in his Parliament robes of velvet crimson. Those around him who had the greatest power at court could wear scarlet, while the sumptuary laws permitted a person of sufficient rank to dress their entire household in the expensive colours they were entitled to wear themselves. Red military uniforms became common up to the nineteenth century.

1960s telephone, offered by Eclectic Antiques & Contemporary

1960s lamp, offered by Good Time Antiques

Whatever the cultural and historical associations of red might be, studies show that red pills are more effective stimulants than blue pills for example. And there’s growing scientific research into colour and how it affects our minds. Human vision is trichromatic and it’s billions of years of evolution long before our ancestors had anything that resembled an eye. Colour doesn’t really exist but it’s how our eyes interpret a set of wavelengths.

Whatever the historical, scientific or social interpretations of red here at Alfies we embrace the allure and power of red with a selection of some sumptuous object just to start you thinking!
Enjoy discovering many more.

 Written by Titika Malkogeorgou

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