Red - a Colour of Quality in Paint, Silk and Wool - in Every Sense

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Red - a Colour of Quality in Paint, Silk and Wool - in Every Sense

Date and time

Tuesday 22 July, 1–1.45pm

Sainsbury Wing Theatre

Lisa Monnas and Jo Kirby Atkinson

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Red is a cheerful, festive colour and historically it carried further connotations of expense and distinction. Before the middle of the 16th century, the costliest reds were derived from scale insects, kermes and the Old World sources of the deep crimson dye charcteristic of cochineal. They provided the dyestuffs for scarlet wool and crimson silk, which, in turn, were the source of lake pigments for artists.

This talk will explore different sources of red pigments, touching upon the symbiotic nature of the textile and pigment trade. We will look in some detail at the deployment of various hues of red in paintings, how these colours were achieved, their particular qualities and their significance to contemporary observers.

Lisa Monnas

Lisa Monnas is an independent textile historian whose main field of research covers European silks of the Middle Ages and of the Renaissance. Her most recent book is titled 'Renaissance Velvets'.

Jo Kirby Atkinson

Jo Kirby Atkinson is a research fellow in the Scientific Department at the National Gallery.

Lunchtime talks

Focus in on one painting with our talks in the Gallery, or explore wider themes in the collection at our in-depth theatre talks.

Image above: Detail from Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas, 'Combing the Hair ('La Coiffure')', about 1896