Purple is a singular colour, and a spectrum: purple, violet, mauve, lilac, plum even crimson and darkest pink are all somehow relatives. But purple carries the strongest connotative meanings that distinguish it from the rest of the rainbow.
Purple is the colour of elegance, of velvet robes trimmed in ermine, regal and refined. It is the colour of Edwardian drawing rooms, of Art Nouveau, Klimt, Beardsley and the Mackintoshes. At the same time it has more threatening overtones, of the gathering storm, of thunderclaps and lightning striking, of bruising, funerals and depression.
Julius Caesar and Cleopatra were very fond of it. Henry VIII privatised it, forbidding any other citizen to wear the colour except himself. The dye can be derived from the mucous glands of the sea-snail, which is handy.
Purple sits between blue and red on the colour wheel. It is the V (for Violet) in ROYGBIV. When light passes through a prism it is the most refracted colour
(with thanks to Pink Floyd).
It is not a colour for all seasons or purposes: of the 192 nations who have national flags only 3 feature purple in any amount or detail, compared to red which figures in 75% of them.
Purple regularly becomes fashionable. It was popular in fin de siècle décor, furnishing and formal dress, through to the 1920s. It had a strong revival in the 60s when Biba and Mary Quant dressed most of Chelsea and Kensington in the colour, and it is getting another lease of life now.
In the early 70s and some men wore purple velvet baker's boy caps and crushed velvet flares: they were known as 'wallies'. Some students wore purple shoes, often dyed bowling shoes that they had stolen from the bowling alley: they were called 'Art Students'.
But of course it is Mother Nature who has always provided us with the most prolific range of abundant purpleness:
|Bottom right are ladybirds, not Photoshopped, but from somewhere exotic which I didn't note down at the time and now can't find. Nothing changes.|
Wiki tells us that : "in literary criticism purple prose is prose text that is so extravagant, ornate or flowery as to break the flow and draw excessive attention to itself." Heaven forfend that The Sunday items should ever sink to this.
On the other hand, a purple patch means "a run of success or good luck" A football team might have a purple patch that lasted all season, drawing plaudits from even the most curmudgeonly pundits and then fall at the last hurdle, for no apparent reason. Its supporters might well be purplexed.
|SHEB WOOLEY 1959|
ENOUGH WITH THE PURPLE ALREADY...............