Red Essay

Egyptologists have long noted that the surfaces of many ancient Egyptian objects made of gold bear a distinctive coloration that ranges from a pale reddish hue to a dark purple. This effect is observed on solid cast figures as well as on hammered sheet metal and gold leaf, such that its origin would seem to be independent of the technology used for fabrication. A typical example is the gilded face mask on the mummy of Ukhhotep (12.182.132). While the effect has been recognized for more than a century, its cause remained a subject of speculation until recently. Over the years, numerous hypotheses have been advanced to explain the phenomenon, including tarnishing of a debased gold alloy, remanent colloidal gold following selective corrosion and removal of alloying elements such as silver and copper, deposition of organic films, and adventitious or deliberate addition of iron-bearing minerals such as hematite or pyrite to the gold alloy. Notably, Alfred Lucas, one of the foremost early researchers in the study of ancient Egyptian technology, correctly surmised that the vast majority of such colorations resulted from fortuitous tarnishing of silver-bearing gold and also recognized correctly that a smaller group of objects bearing a distinctly different red coloration represented another phenomenon altogether.

The idea that this coloration derives from a corrosion process and not a deliberate patination is prompted partly by the fact that nearly all native gold occurs as an alloy of gold and silver known as electrum, and partly by occurrences of the coloration in what are sometimes observed to be seemingly irregular distributions on the surfaces of objects. The most notable examples of this kind are the gold-leaf decorations on the wood sarcophagus enclosures from the tomb of Tutankhamun, where areas of bright gold leaf are seen juxtaposed against areas of a dark purple coloration along irregular borders that would seem to have no relationship to an intended design.

Early attempts to analyze the red colorations often were confounded by the extremely small thicknesses of the layers, such that samples obtained by scraping–no matter how judiciously performed–were usually overwhelmed by contamination from the substrate alloy. However, analysis in situ by x-ray diffractometry and x-ray fluorescence spectrometry has provided a rapid and straightforward way of characterizing the films and has shown them typically to be composed of one or more silver-gold sulfides. The species responsible for the predominant reddish purple coloration is most often indicated to be AgAuS, a compound sometimes found in nature as the mineral petrovskaite. In addition, synthetic gold-silver alloys having a silver content between approximately 8 and 11 weight percent silver have been observed to develop red-purple tarnish films identical in appearance and composition to those found on ancient Egyptian silver-gold objects when exposed to sulfide ion for extended periods at elevated temperatures. With increasing silver content and prolonged exposure to sulfide ion, both historical gold-silver objects and modern synthetic gold-silver surfaces develop black tarnishes that include another phase, Ag3AuS2, which also occurs in nature as the mineral uytenbogaardtite. Taken together, the evidence suggests that the red colorations derive largely–as Lucas first conjectured–from fortuitous tarnishing of native electrum having silver-gold compositions appropriate for the formation of the AgAuS phase.

Red sulfide tarnishes have been identified on historical gold-silver objects from other cultural contexts, including goldwork from the Royal Cemetery at Ur (33.35.3) and nineteenth-century European jewelry. That these tarnishes occur predominantly on ancient Egyptian objects likely reflects the high sulfide ion activity associated with the typical contexts of sealed burial chambers as well as the unparted gold-silver alloys used in antiquity.

As a footnote to the discussion, it should be added that not all red-purple colorations on historical gold objects belong to the sulfide-tarnish group described here. Indeed, as Lucas also observed, a small number of gold pieces from the tomb of Tutankhamun bear a bright, translucent red coloration on their surfaces distinctly different in appearance from the darker and more opaque examples. The origin of the color on these unusual objects has not been determined, but may well reside in the deliberate or accidental addition of iron-bearing compounds to the gold, as synthetic samples of such composition have yielded similar appearing surfaces. There also occur archaeological gold objects that bear reddish accretions of hydrated iron oxides, such as lepidocrocite, presumably deposited as residues from groundwater during burial, as well as the gold masks and other objects from Precolumbian South America that exhibit deliberately applied coatings of the red mercuric sulfide mineral cinnabar (1974.271.35). Finally, we should mention that the addition of copper to gold in several types of Egyptian objects during the reign of Akhenaten appears to have been done for its rutilizing effect, and that during the Third Intermediate Period copper-rich gold inlays were used with precious-metal inlays of other compositions and hues for the embellishment of large figural bronzes.

Tony Frantz
Department of Scientific Research, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Deborah Schorsch
Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

March 2007

This article is about the color. For other uses, see Red (disambiguation).

Red is the colour at the end of the visible spectrum of light, next to orange and opposite violet. It has a dominant wavelength of approximately 625–740 nanometres.[1] It is a primary color in the RGB color model and the CMYK color model, and is the complementary color of cyan. Reds range from the brilliant yellow-tinged scarlet and vermillion to bluish-red crimson, and vary in shade from the pale red pink to the dark red burgundy.[2] The red sky at sunset results from Rayleigh scattering, while the red color of the Grand Canyon and other geological features is caused by hematite or red ochre, both forms of iron oxide. Iron oxide also gives the red color to the planet Mars. The red colour of blood comes from protein hemoglobin, while ripe strawberries, red apples and reddish autumn leaves are colored by anthocyanins.[3]

Red pigment made from ochre was one of the first colors used in prehistoric art. The Ancient Egytians and Mayans coloured their faces red in ceremonies; Roman generals had their bodies colored red to celebrate victories. It was also an important colour in China, where it was used to colour early pottery and later the gates and walls of palaces.[4] In the Renaissance, the brilliant red costumes for the nobility and wealthy were dyed with kermes and cochineal. The 19th century brought the introduction of the first synthetic red dyes, which replaced the traditional dyes. Red also became the colour of revolution; Soviet Russia adopted a red flag following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, later followed by China, Vietnam, and other communist countries.

Since red is the colour of blood, it has historically been associated with sacrifice, danger and courage. Modern surveys in Europe and the United States show red is also the colour most commonly associated with heat, activity, passion, sexuality, anger, love and joy. In China, India and many other Asian countries it is the colour of symbolizing happiness and good fortune.[5]

Shades and variations

  • Pure, or solid red, the color of most ripe raspberries.

  • Pink is a pale shade of red. Cherry blossoms in the Tsutsujigaoka Park, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan.

  • Vermilion is similar to scarlet, but slightly more orange. This is sindoor, a red cosmetic powder used in India; Some Hindu women put a stripe of sindoor in their hair to show they are married.

  • Maroon is a dark brownish red. Its name comes from marron, the French word for chestnut.[6]

  • Ruby is the colour of a cut and polished ruby gemstone.

  • Burgundy, claret, or Wine red, is a very dark red containing a little blue. In France this colour is known as Bordeaux.

(Lists of shades of red and shades of pink are found at the end of this article.)

In science and nature

Seeing red

The human eye sees red when it looks at light with a wavelength between approximately 625 and 740 nanometers.[1] It is a primary color in the RGB color model and the light just past this range is called infrared, or below red, and cannot be seen by human eyes, although it can be sensed as heat.[7] In the language of optics, red is the color evoked by light that stimulates neither the S or the M (short and medium wavelength) cone cells of the retina, combined with a fading stimulation of the L (long-wavelength) cone cells.[8]

Primates can distinguish the full range of the colors of the spectrum visible to humans, but many kinds of mammals, such as dogs and cattle, have dichromacy, which means they can see blues and yellows, but cannot distinguish red and green (both are seen as gray). Bulls, for instance, cannot see the red color of the cape of a bullfighter, but they are agitated by its movement.[9] (See color vision).

One theory for why primates developed sensitivity to red is that it allowed ripe fruit to be distinguished from unripe fruit and inedible vegetation.[10] This may have driven further adaptations by species taking advantage of this new ability, such as the emergence of red faces.[11]

Red light is used to help adapt night vision in low-light or night time, as the rod cells in the human eye are not sensitive to red.[12][13]

Red illumination was (and sometimes still is) used as a safelight while working in a darkroom as it does not expose most photographic paper and some films.[14] Today modern darkrooms usually use an amber safelight.

In color theory and on a computer screen

On the color wheel long used by painters, and in traditional color theory, red is one of the three primary colors, along with blue and yellow. Painters in the Renaissance mixed red and blue to make violet: Cennino Cennini, in his 15th century manual on painting, wrote, "If you want to make a lovely violet colour, take fine lac [red lake], ultramarine blue (the same amount of the one as of the other) with a binder" he noted that it could also be made by mixing blue indigo and red hematite.[15]

In modern color theory, also known as the RGB color model, red, green and blue are additive primary colors. Red, green and blue light combined together makes white light, and these three colors, combined in different mixtures, can produce nearly any other color. This is the principle that is used to make all of the colors on your computer screen and your television. For example, magenta on a computer screen is made by a similar formula to that used by Cennino Cennini in the Renaissance to make violet, but using additive colors and light instead of pigment: it is created by combining red and blue light at equal intensity on a black screen. Violet is made on a computer screen in a similar way, but with a greater amount of blue light and less red light.[16]

So that the maximum number of colors can be accurately reproduced on your computer screen, each color has been given a code number, or sRGB, which tells your computer the intensity of the red, green and blue components of that color. The intensity of each component is measured on a scale of zero to 255, which means the complete list includes 16,777,216 distinct colors and shades. The sRGB number of pure red, for example, is 255, 00, 00, which means the red component is at its maximum intensity, and there is no green or blue. The sRGB number for crimson is 220, 20, 60, which means that the red is slightly less intense and therefore darker, there is some green, which leans it toward orange; and there is a larger amount of blue, which makes it slightly blue-violet.[16]

(See Web colors and RGB color model)

  • In a traditional color wheel from 1708, red, yellow and blue are primary colors. Red and yellow make orange, red and blue make violet.

  • In modern color theory, red, green and blue are the additive primary colors, and together they make white. A combination of red, green and blue light in varying proportions makes all the colors on your computer screen and television screen.

  • Tiny Red, green and blue sub-pixels (enlarged on left side of image) create the colors you see on your computer screen and TV.

Why the sunset is red

As a ray of white sunlight travels through the atmosphere to the eye, some of the colors are scattered out of the beam by air molecules and airborne particles due to Rayleigh scattering, changing the final color of the beam that is seen. Colors with a shorter wavelength, such as blue and green, scatter more strongly, and are removed from the light that finally reaches the eye.[17] At sunrise and sunset, when the path of the sunlight through the atmosphere to the eye is longest, the blue and green components are removed almost completely, leaving the longer wavelength orange and red light. The remaining reddened sunlight can also be scattered by cloud droplets and other relatively large particles, which give the sky above the horizon its red glow.[18]


Lasers emitting in the red region of the spectrum have been available since the invention of the ruby laser in 1960. In 1962 the red helium–neon laser was invented,[19] and these two types of lasers were widely used in many scientific applications including holography, and in education. Red helium–neon lasers were used commercially in LaserDisc players. The use of red laser diodes became widespread with the commercial success of modern DVD players, which use a 660 nm laser diode technology. Today, red and red-orange laser diodes are widely available to the public in the form of extremely inexpensive laser pointers. Portable, high-powered versions are also available for various applications.[20] More recently, 671 nm diode-pumped solid state (DPSS) lasers have been introduced to the market for all-DPSS laser display systems, particle image velocimetry, Raman spectroscopy, and holography.[21]

Red's wavelength has been an important factor in laser technologies; red lasers, used in early compact disc technologies, are being replaced by blue lasers, as red's longer wavelength causes the laser's recordings to take up more space on the disc than would blue-laser recordings.[22]


  • Mars is called the Red Planet because of the reddish color imparted to its surface by the abundant iron oxide present there.[23]
  • Astronomical objects that are moving away from the observer exhibit a Doppler red shift.
  • Jupiter's surface displays a Great Red Spot caused by an oval-shaped mega storm south of the planet's equator.[24]
  • Red giants are stars that have exhausted the supply of hydrogen in their cores and switched to thermonuclear fusion of hydrogen in a shell that surrounds its core. They have radii tens to hundreds of times larger than that of the Sun. However, their outer envelope is much lower in temperature, giving them an orange hue. Despite the lower energy density of their envelope, red giants are many times more luminous than the Sun due to their large size.
  • Red supergiants like Betelgeuse, Antares and UY Scuti, the biggest star in the Universe, are the biggest variety of red giants, They are huge in size, with radii 200 to 800 times greater than our Sun, but relatively cool in temperature (3500-4500 K), causing their distinct red tint. Because they are shrinking rapidly in size, they are surrounded by an envelope or skin much bigger than the star itself. The envelope of Betelgeuse is 250 times bigger than the star inside.
  • A red dwarf is a small and relatively coolstar, which has a mass of less than half that of the Sun and a surface temperature of less than 4,000 K. Red dwarfs are by far the most common type of star in the Galaxy, but due to their low luminosity, from Earth, none is visible to the naked eye.[25]


  • Fire is often shown as red in art, but flames are usually yellow, orange or blue. Some elements exhibit a red color when burned: calcium, for example, produces a brick-red when combusted.[26]
  • Red is commonly associated with flames and fire, but flames are almost always yellow, orange or blue

Pigments and dyes

  • Hematite, or iron ore, is the source of the red color of red ochre.

  • Red ochre cliffs near Roussillon in France. Red ochre is composed of clay tinted with hematite. Ochre was the first pigment used by man in prehistoric cave paintings.

  • The mineral cinnabar, the ore of mercury, is the source of the color vermilion. In Roman times, most cinnabar came from mines at Almadén in Spain, where the miners were usually prisoners and slaves. Mercury is highly toxic, and working in the mines was often a death sentence for the miners.

  • Vermilion pigment, made from cinnabar. This was the pigment used in the murals of Pompeii and to color Chinese lacquerware beginning in the Song dynasty.

  • Despite its yellow greenish flower, the roots of the Rubia tinctorum, or madder plant, produced the most common red dye used from ancient times until the 19th century.

  • Red lead, also known as minium, has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks. Chemically it is known as lead tetroxide. The Romans prepared it by the roasting of lead white pigment. It was commonly used in the Middle Ages for the headings and decoration of illuminated manuscripts.

  • The tiny female cochineal insect of Spanish Mexico (on the left), was crushed to make the deep crimson color used in Renaissance costumes.

  • Extract of carmine, made by crushing cochineal and other scale insects which feed on the sap of live oak trees. Also called kermes, it was used from the Middle Ages until the 19th century to make crimson dye. Now it is used as a coloring for yoghurt and other food products.

  • The Sappanwood tree, native to India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, and later the related Brazilwood tree (shown here), from the coast of South America, were the source of a popular red pigment and dye called brazilin. The red wood was ground to powder and mixed with an alkaline solution. The brazilwood gave its name to the nation of Brazil.

  • Alizarin was the first synthetic red dye, created by German chemists in 1868. It duplicated the colorant in the madder plant, but was cheaper and longer lasting. After its introduction, the production of natural dyes from the madder plant virtually ceased.

Red lac, red lake and crimson lake

Red lac, also called red lake, crimson lake or carmine lake, was an important red pigment in Renaissance and Baroque art. Since it was translucent, thin layers of red lac were built up or glazed over a more opaque dark color to create a particularly deep and vivid color.

Unlike vermilion or red ochre, made from minerals, red lake pigments are made by mixing organic dyes, made from insects or plants, with white chalk or alum. Red lac was made from the gum lac, the dark red resinous substance secreted by various scale insects, particularly the Laccifer lacca from India.[27]Carmine lake was made from the cochineal insect from Central and South America, Kermes lake came from a different scale insect, kermes vermilio, which thrived on oak trees around the Mediterranean. Other red lakes were made from the rose madder plant and from the brazilwood tree.

Red lake pigments were an important part of the palette of 16th century Venetian painters, particularly Titian, but they were used in all periods.[28] Since the red lakes were made from organic dyes, they tended to be fugitive, becoming unstable and fading when exposed to sunlight.

Food coloring

The most common synthetic food coloring today is Allura Red AC is a red azo dye that goes by several names including: Allura Red, Food Red 17, C.I. 16035, FD&C Red 40,[29][30] It was originally manufactured from coal tar, but now is mostly made from petroleum.

In Europe, Allura Red AC is not recommended for consumption by children. It is banned in Denmark, Belgium, France and Switzerland, and was also banned in Sweden until the country joined the European Union in 1994.[31] The European Union approves Allura Red AC as a food colorant, but EU countries' local laws banning food colorants are preserved.[32]

In the United States, Allura Red AC is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in cosmetics, drugs, and food. It is used in some tattoo inks and is used in many products, such as soft drinks, children's medications, and cotton candy. On June 30, 2010, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) called for the FDA to ban Red 40.[33]

Because of public concerns about possible health risks associated with synthetic dyes, many companies have switched to using natural pigments such as carmine, made from crushing the tiny female cochineal insect. This insect, originating in Mexico and Central American, was used to make the brilliant scarlet dyes of the European Renaissance.

Autumn leaves

The red of autumn leaves is produced by pigments called anthocyanins. They are not present in the leaf throughout the growing season, but are actively produced towards the end of summer.[3] They develop in late summer in the sap of the cells of the leaf, and this development is the result of complex interactions of many influences—both inside and outside the plant. Their formation depends on the breakdown of sugars in the presence of bright light as the level of phosphate in the leaf is reduced.[34]

During the summer growing season, phosphate is at a high level. It has a vital role in the breakdown of the sugars manufactured by chlorophyll. But in the fall, phosphate, along with the other chemicals and nutrients, moves out of the leaf into the stem of the plant. When this happens, the sugar-breakdown process changes, leading to the production of anthocyanin pigments. The brighter the light during this period, the greater the production of anthocyanins and the more brilliant the resulting color display. When the days of autumn are bright and cool, and the nights are chilly but not freezing, the brightest colorations usually develop.

Anthocyanins temporarily color the edges of some of the very young leaves as they unfold from the buds in early spring. They also give the familiar color to such common fruits as cranberries, red apples, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, and plums.

Anthocyanins are present in about 10% of tree species in temperate regions, although in certain areas—a famous example being New England—up to 70% of tree species may produce the pigment.[3] In autumn forests they appear vivid in the maples, oaks, sourwood, sweetgums, dogwoods, tupelos, cherry trees and persimmons. These same pigments often combine with the carotenoids' colors to create the deeper orange, fiery reds, and bronzes typical of many hardwood species. (See Autumn leaf color).

Blood and other reds in nature

Oxygenated blood is red due to the presence of oxygenated hemoglobin that contains iron molecules, with the iron components reflecting red light.[35][36] Red meat gets its color from the iron found in the myoglobin and hemoglobin in the muscles and residual blood.[37]

Plants like apples, strawberries, cherries, tomatoes, peppers, and pomegranates are often colored by forms of carotenoids, red pigments that also assist photosynthesis.[38]

  • When used to describe natural animal coloration, "red" usually refers to a brownish, reddish-brown or ginger color. In this sense it is used to describe coat colors of reddish-brown cattle and dogs, and in the names of various animal species or breeds such as red fox, red squirrel, red deer, European robin, red grouse, red knot, redstart, redwing, red setter, Red Devon cattle, etc. This reddish-brown color is also meant when using the terms red ochre and red hair.
  • The red herring dragged across a trail to destroy the scent gets its color from the heavy salting and slow smoking of the fish, which results in a warm, brown color.
  • When used for flowers, red often refers to purplish (red deadnettle, red clover, red helleborine) or pink (red campion, red valerian) colors.

Hair color

Red hair occurs naturally on approximately 1–2% of the human population.[39] It occurs more frequently (2–6%) in people of northern or western European ancestry, and less frequently in other populations. Red hair appears in people with two copies of a recessive gene on chromosome 16 which causes a mutation in the MC1R protein.[citation needed]

Red hair varies from a deep burgundy through burnt orange to bright copper. It is characterized by high levels of the reddish pigment pheomelanin (which also accounts for the red color of the lips) and relatively low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin. The term redhead (originally redd hede)[citation needed] has been in use since at least 1510. Cultural reactions have varied from ridicule to admiration; many common stereotypes exist regarding redheads and they are often portrayed as fiery-tempered. (See red hair).

In animal and human behavior

Red is associated with dominance in a number of animal species.[40] For example, in mandrills, red coloration of the face is greatest in alpha males, increasingly less prominent in lower ranking subordinates, and directly correlated with levels of testosterone.[41] Red can also affect the perception of dominance by others, leading to significant differences in mortality, reproductive success and parental investment between individuals displaying red and those not.[42] In humans, wearing red has been linked with increased performance in competitions, including professional sport[43][44] and multiplayer video games.[45] Controlled tests have demonstrated that wearing red does not increase performance or levels of testosterone during exercise, so the effect is likely to be produced by perceived rather than actual performance.[46] Judges of tae kwon do have been shown to favor competitors wearing red protective gear over blue,[47] and, when asked, a significant majority of people say that red abstract shapes are more "dominant", "aggressive", and "likely to win a physical competition" than blue shapes.[40] In contrast to its positive effect in physical competition and dominance behavior, exposure to red decreases performance in cognitive tasks[48] and elicits aversion in psychological tests where subjects are placed in an "achievement" context (e.g. taking an IQ test).[49]

History and art


Inside cave 13B at Pinnacle Point, an archeological site found on the coast of South Africa, paleoanthropologists in 2000 found evidence that, between 170,000 and 40,000 years ago, Late Stone Age people were scraping and grinding ochre, a clay colored red by iron oxide, probably with the intention of using it to color their bodies.[50]

Red hematite powder was also found scattered around the remains at a grave site in a Zhoukoudian cave complex near Beijing. The site has evidence of habitation as early as 700,000 years ago. The hematite might have been used to symbolize blood in an offering to the dead.[51]

Red, black and white were the first colors used by artists in the Upper Paleolithic age, probably because natural pigments such as red ochre and iron oxide were readily available where early people lived. Madder, a plant whose root could be made into a red dye, grew widely in Europe, Africa and Asia.[52] The cave of Altamira in Spain has a painting of a bison colored with red ochre that dates to between 15,000 and 16,500 BC.

A red dye called Kermes was made beginning in the Neolithic Period by drying and then crushing the bodies of the females of a tiny scale insect in the genus Kermes, primarily Kermes vermilio. The insects live on the sap of certain trees, especially Kermes oak trees near the Mediterranean region. Jars of kermes have been found in a Neolithic cave-burial at Adaoutse, Bouches-du-Rhône.[53] Kermes from oak trees was later used by Romans, who imported it from Spain. A different variety of dye was made from Porphyrophora hamelii (Armenian cochineal) scale insects that lived on the roots and stems of certain herbs. It was mentioned in texts as early as the 8th century BC, and it was used by the ancient Assyrians and Persians.[54]

Kermes is also mentioned in the Bible. In the Book of Exodus, God instructs Moses to have the Israelites bring him an offering including cloth "of blue, and purple, and scarlet."[55] The term used for scarlet in the 4th century Latin Vulgate version of the Bible passage is coccumque bis tinctum, meaning "colored twice with coccus." Coccus, from the ancient Greek Kokkos, means a tiny grain and is the term that was used in ancient times for the Kermes vermilio insect used to make the Kermes dye.[56] This was also the origin of the expression "dyed in the grain."[57]

Ancient history

In ancient Egypt, red was associated with life, health, and victory. Egyptians would color themselves with red ochre during celebrations.[58] Egyptian women used red ochre as a cosmetic to redden cheeks and lips[59] and also used henna to color their hair and paint their nails.[60]

But, like many colors, it also had a negative association, with heat, destruction and evil. A prayer to god Isis states: "Oh Isis, protect me from all things evil and red."[61] The ancient Egyptians began manufacturing pigments in about 4000 BC. Red ochre was widely used as a pigment for wall paintings, particularly as the skin color of men. An ivory painter's palette found inside the tomb of King Tutankhamun had small compartments with pigments of red ochre and five other colors. The Egyptians used the root of the rubia, or madder plant, to make a dye, later known as alizarin, and also used it as a pigment, which became known as madder lake, alizarin or alizarin crimson.[62]

In Ancient China, artisans were making red and black painted pottery as early as the Yangshao Culture period (5000–3000 BC). A red-painted wooden bowl was found at a Neolithic site in Yuyao, Zhejiang. Other red-painted ceremonial objects have been found at other sites dating to the Spring and Autumn period (770–221 BC).[4]

During the Han dynasty (200 BC to 200 AD) Chinese craftsmen made a red pigment, lead tetroxide, which they called ch-ien tan, by heating lead white pigment. Like the Egyptians, they made a red dye from the madder plant to color silk fabric for gowns and used pigments colored with madder to make red lacquerware.

Red lead or Lead tetroxide pigment was widely used as the red in Persian and Indian miniature paintings as well as in European art, where it was called minium.[62]

In India, the rubia plant has been used to make dye since ancient times. A piece of cotton dyed with rubia dated to the third millennium BC was found at an archaeological site at Mohenjo-daro.[63] It has been used by Indian monks and hermits for centuries to dye their robes.

The early inhabitants of America had their own vivid crimson dye, made from the cochineal, an insect of the same family as the Kermes of Europe and the Middle East, which feeds on the Opuntia, or prickly pear cactus plant. Red-dyed textiles from the Paracas culture (800–100 BC) have been found in tombs in Peru.[citation needed]

Red also featured in the burials of royalty in the Maya city-states. In the Tomb of the Red Queen inside Temple XIII in the ruined Maya city of Palenque (600–700 AD), the skeleton and ceremonial items of a noble woman were completely covered with bright red powder made from cinnabar.[64]

Bulls, like dogs and many other animals, have dichromacy, which means they cannot distinguish the color red. They charge the matador's cape because of its motion, not its color.
Titian used glazes of red lake to create the vivid crimson of the robes in The Vendramin Family Venerating a Relic of the True Cross, completed 1550–60 (detail).

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