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The History of a Color
Michel Pastoureau

Book Description | Table of Contents
Introduction [in PDF format]


"Black is a penetrating, erudite, thoughtfully illustrated cultural history of a color, by Michel Pastoureau, an author whose earlier work has included--surprise, surprise--Blue."--Nicholas A. Basbanes, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette

"French popular art historian Pastoureau here tackles one of the most complex and interesting colours, the favourite of 'priests and penitents, artists and ascetics, fashion designers and fascists.' This social history is lavishly illustrated with paintings, movie stills, photo portraits and fashion shoots."--The Globe & Mail

"Until I came upon Michel Pastoureau's 2000 book Blue: The History of a Color it had never occurred to me colors had a history. Turns out they do, and tracking the significance first of blue, now black, provides a satisfyingly fresh angle of approach to the past."--Frtiz Lanham, The Houston Chronicle

"What is interesting in sociological histories like Pastoureau's is their revelations about how cultural attitudes change. Black's connection with death began as early as ancient Egypt, when people left black stones on funeral pyres, not in a ghoulish way but as a symbol of rebirth (the Egyptian death divinity, Anubis, was painted black). . . . But this book will have you seeing black in more shades than you imagined."--Victor Swoboda, The Montreal Gazette

"The author of more than a dozen art history books, Pastoureau's work is accessible, generous and witty. What's more, like all good illustrated books, this one is has more than 150 pictures in support of its superb text."--Marc Horton, The Edmonton Journal

"Now Princeton University Press has published a social history of this most allusive of hues, Black: The History of a Color, by Michel Pastoureau, a French scholar and author of a similarly titled history of the color blue. Both are lavishly illustrated coffee table books that follow their colors down the time line of European history."--John Zeaman, Design NJ Magazine

"This erudite and elegantly written exploration of the history of black charts its changing symbolism and shades of meaning as a colour of death and rebirth, of religious authority and evil, of luxury and poverty."--Fiona Capp, The Age (Australia)

"Pastoureau combines a charming, conversational tone with a haughtiness I found entirely endearing. A director of studies at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes at the Sorbonne in Paris, he writes from a position of professorial confidence. He has conducted extensive research into the history of colour for a quarter century and his aim is to correct misapprehensions and banish ignorance. His style is not to inquire, explore or interrogate, in the fashion of academic studies today. It is to impart knowledge."--Sebastian Smee, The Australian

"As the handsomely produced book demonstrates, black is the colour of the pigment used to draw the great bull of Lascaux, of evil, the devil, funerals, the fecundity of the Earth, bears, crows, hell, half the pieces on a chess board, Satan, heretics and priests alike, mysterious cats and, in the 12th century, the mantle of Mary, the mother of Jesus."--Sydney Morning Herald

"[T]his book . . . reads quite naturally as English . . . and it has something worthwhile to say in a style that is informative rather than aimed mostly at enhancing the reputation of the writer among his academic peers. . . There is much valuable information about the history of dying in different periods and the fashionability of the color black among the nobility and upper classes (later the wealthy merchant class) of Europe."--Colin Blogs

Praise for Michel Pastoureau's Blue: "A generous, gorgeous book full of nearly 100 historical and artistic plates, all illustrating the meaning and role of the color blue in Western history. . . . Pastoureau has created something rare: a coffee table book that is also a good read. And not just a good read, but a compelling read."--Brian Bouldrey, Chicago Tribune

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File created: 4/21/2017

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