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Red: The History of a Color by Michel Pastoureau
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98 Leonardo Reviews ing our own, as new information enters the arena. Critically evaluating data and seeking to keep “conclusions ” open to reevaluation speak to a skeptical attitude that is neither a denial of science’s value nor an elevation of mysticism. Rather it is saying that learning is a lifelong and intergenerational process. It involves the brain and extends to include society, individual traits that change throughout our lives and even nature. More broadly, in terms of science and, in this case, neuroscience, it seems that, with so much unknown, a skeptical attitude—defined as an act of suspending judgment (in other words, the opposite of jumping to conclusions)—should be the optimal approach when so much is unknown: an element of the research that all of the authors note). If science is by definition a communal exercise in evaluating explanations and claims, then skepticism is a key component of the methodology, one that encourages scientists to systematically question all information in the course of all investigations. Let me note that readers who bring some background to the research will no doubt find the array more accessible than those less familiar with the field. Leonardo readers with a fascination for the brain may want to complement this volume with a title like Experience: Culture, Cognition, and the Common Sense, a compilation from a symposium that brought artists, musicians, philosophers, anthropologists, historians and neuroscientists together. The Experience anthology has a wider sweep and has much to say about the interplay of sensorial and cultural realms of experience [2]. References   1 The full lecture is available at .   2 Caroline A. Jones et al., ed., Experience: Culture, Cognition, and the Common Sense (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2016). RED: THE HISTORY OF A COLOR by Michel Pastoureau; translated by Jody Gladding. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, U.S.A., 2017. 216 pp., illus. ISBN: 978-0-691-17277-4. Reviewed by Giovanna L. Costantini. Email: . doi:10.1162/LEON_r_01565 Red—the color of fire, fertility, blood and sacrifice, of passion, privilege, lust and revolution—remains today a powerful emotive agent, its complex semiology a testament to the color’s universal symbolism and favor throughout the ages. Michel Pastoureau’s stunning new book, Red: The History of a Color, his most recent addition to a series on the cultural history of color, continues an interdisciplinary investigation into the social history of color, one that takes as its premise the position that color is a socially constructed concept, one whose vocabulary, codes and values, organization, and uses have been determined by distinct and identifiable cultures. As such, Pastoureau’s narrative extends beyond color’s physical properties as a component of light or physiological and psychological metrics to social customs, technical applications, religious and moral codes, artistic creations, and symbolic and lexical expressions in areas that merge at times with chemistry, economics , trade and technology. The author is particularly qualified to offer such perspectives, having conducted seminars on the subject at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales for over 30 years. Arranged chronologically, the text spans subjects from Paleolithic cave paintings to Chinese parade photos, moving from the Hall of Bulls of Spain’s Altamira caves, circa 15,000 BCE, to Rothko’s twentieth-century abstractions. Pastoureau examines the composition of various pigments from plants and minerals and other organisms, such as hematite used in Pharaonic Egypt; the herb madder, popular during the Roman Empire; and kermes, a dye extracted from certain insects in the Mediterranean. This survey of red’s usage in antiquity includes descriptions of the technical means used to transform elemental ores and animal or vegetable matter into pigments; dying processes; and artisanal practices as well as symbolic functions associated with funerary customs (red ochre burials), ritual observances (the rooster’s red comb used in divination) and myth (association with the vital powers of Dionysus). According to Pliny’s Natural History, red was reputed to come from the blood of dragons and elephants . Although the earliest history of dyeing remains speculative, cloth fragments recovered in tombs from the 3rd to the 1st millennium BCE provide evidence of materials such as henna, murex and carthamus traded throughout the Mediterranean basin. Roman Purple...


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