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Posts tagged ‘dye’

Caesar and the Snail: “Royal Purple” in Imperial Rome

The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme.  This month we are discussing Color.  Check out all the stories below!

As the old saying goes – “Clothes make the man.”  Nowhere is this more true than in Ancient Rome.  They had a purple dye so rare and so valuable that wearing it was reserved for the elite.  Eventually only the Emperor was allowed to wear full garments of this color, known as Tyrian purple.  So where did this precious color come from?  A sea snail native to Lebanon.

Justinian in purple

Emperor Justinian I wears a purple robe while his chief advisers have a broad stripe of purple in their garments. The Byzantines inherited the connection between purple and power.  This mosaic is from Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna (Photo)

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