Friday, July 29, 2011


L'economie des moyens picturaux contre l'emploi de materiaux onereux dans la peinture ancienne. Charikleia Brécoulaki. In Coulours et matrie\res dans l'antiquité. Textes, Techniques et pratiques. Agnes Rouveret, Sandrine Dubel et Valerie Naas, eds. 2006, 29-42.

Roman writers such as Pliny, Cicero, and Quintillian are not reliable source of the theory and method of ancient painting because they were not themselves experts in the field, and even if they had read ancient treatises on the subject, they were likely to have misunderstood some of the technical aspects of them; besides, they were as far distant from the painters of ancient Greece as we are from Fra Angelico or Pietro della Franchesca.

Pliny's colores floridi are names of pigments crossing the warm/cool divide, including reds, purples, greens, and blues. None of the ones he names have been found at Pompeii except purpurissum; minium has been found elsewhere on Roman paintings. The floridi colores are unstable and incompatible with fresco painting.

Even granting the use of the pigments Pliny names, their appearance in artworks depends deeply on the pigments' preparation (eg fineness of grinding) and application. The term floridi is itself a translation of  Greek α'νθηρός which refers to dying clothes purple, with its attendant association of luxury.
Or, pour revenir aux termes latins, lorsque les adjectifs floridus et austerus sont employes en contexte pictural, ils suggerent egalement, d'une maniere assez generale, l'abondance et le luxe par opposition a la simplicite et a la sobriete ... [40]

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Color Appearance and the Emergence and Evolution of Basic Color Lexicons

Paul Kay and Luisa Maffi. American Anthropologist 101:4 1999. 743-60.

Introduces a new model motivating the regularities of color naming and color evolution observed in the World Color Survey. The model assumes that the Hering primaries (white, black, red, yellow, green, blue) are basic and universal "hue sensations", and adds 4 principles:

1. The partition principle, which they formalize thus: "Partition: In notional domains of universal or quasi-universal cultural salience (kin relations, living things, colors, etc.), languages tend to assign significata to lexical items in such a way as to partition the denotata of the domain. [745] (NB: Oniga's (2009) proposal of consistent bright/dark twins in Latin's BCTs could be interpreted as partition operating over a visual domain different from hue; also suggests a symmetry principle that tends to operate in phonological space.)

2. Distinguish Black and White. Objects are can be distinguished without hue; B & W are probably the most basic visual sensations. [747]

3. Distinguish the warm primaries (red and yellow) from the cool primaries (green and blue). [747] They cite studies supporting the universality of this broad distinction.

4. Distinguish red. [749] They cite evidence for the universal primacy of the red sensation over the others.

They propose that the operation of these principles (linguistic? psychological? cultural? perceptual?) accounts for the evolution of BCTs according to the patterns noted in the WCS.