In this richly illustrated book, Michel Pastoureau—a renowned authority on the history of color and the author of celebrated volumes on blue, black, green, and red—now traces the visual, social, and cultural history of yellow. Focusing on European societies, with comparisons from East Asia, India, Africa, and South America, Yellow tells the intriguing story of the color’s evolving place in art, religion, fashion, literature, and science.
In Europe today, yellow is a discreet color, little present in everyday life and rarely carrying great symbolism. This has not always been the case. In antiquity, yellow was almost sacred, a symbol of light, warmth, and prosperity. It became highly ambivalent in medieval Europe: greenish yellow came to signify demonic sulfur and bile, the color of forgers, lawless knights, Judas, and Lucifer—while warm yellow recalled honey and gold, serving as a sign of pleasure and abundance. In Asia, yellow has generally had a positive meaning. In ancient China, yellow clothing was reserved for the emperor, while in India the color is associated with happiness. Above all, yellow is the color of Buddhism, whose temple doors are marked with it.
Throughout, Pastoureau illuminates the history of yellow with a wealth of captivating images. With its striking design and compelling text, Yellow is a feast for the eye and mind.
"Beautifully illustrated. . . . [Pastoureau] unpicks the meanings of the colour by delving into a broad range of cultural references, from history, clothing and myth to art and etymology, and shows the different roles each colour has played in society and how they have changed."—Michael Prodger, The Times
"Yellow is in part the story of gold, but that was just the beginning, Michel Pastoureau points out in the fifth of his lively, informative, brightly illustrated series about individual colours."—Rachel Campbell-Johnston, The Times
"Pastoureau’s main aim is not simply to record how hues have been used, but to seek out the various values they have expressed and embodied in different times. . . . Yellow is worth buying as much for its sumptuous images as its scholarship."—Kevin Jackson, Literary Review
"The French scholar Michel Pastoureau investigates how individual colours have been viewed and used in the past. Yellow: The History of a Colour is the successor to similar volumes on blue, green, black and red. But it turns out that yellow has had an intriguing, though chequered, time."—Martin Gayford, The Spectator Australia
"Yellow: The History of a Color is the fifth such volume that Pastoureau has produced. Like its predecessors, which recount the visual and cultural histories of blue (2001), black (2009), green (2013), and red (2017), this one is elegant and engaging — as alluring to gaze at as it is compelling to read. Yellow may be an unsettling color, but this is a lovely and striking book."—Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe
"Like Pastoureau’s earlier volumes, this is a beautifully produced book and an impressive work of scholarship . . . it is a fascinating and sensual celebration of our complex love-hate relationship with what Goethe called this 'joyous colour'."—Peter D. Smith, The Guardian
"If you are contemplating going to a museum, or purchasing a painting for millions for your private collection, this book is going to involve less gas or less investment, and the outcome might be more nourishing."—Anna Faktorovich, Pennsylvania Literary Review
"[Yellow: The History of a Color] tells the fascinating story of yellow’s evolving place in art, religion, literature and science from its sacred and symbolic status in antiquity, through its demonic associations with lawlessness when tinged with green, but in its pure state, still engendering feelings of pleasure and abundance, to its positive position in Asian societies and its lasting status as the colour of Buddhism."—Wendy and Ian Lipke, Queensland Reviewers Collection
"Richly illustrated and impressively wide-ranging."—The Week
"Michel Pastoureau continues his study of colors, following up on similar works about blue, black, green and red. Pastoureau’s book, a measured and scholarly approach, is filled with images of art and artifacts as well as the color’s interesting role in world history."—Diane Cowen, Houston Chronicle
"Yellow: The History of a Color takes readers on a Eurocentric tour of the color."—Alicia Eler, Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Yellow is perhaps the most difficult of the colors Pastoureau has undertaken so far. Nonetheless, he handles it with the same sure hand and informed historical perspective he did its predecessors (Blue, Green, Red, and Black). . . . Visuals are handsome and accompanied by text that is both scholarly and easily readable, and that addresses subjects ranging from perception, philology, etymology, and dyes and pigments, to the artistic and symbolic use of color from antiquity onward."—R.M. Davis, Choice
"An impressive, learned, and enjoyable journey through time on the wings of color, Yellow will appeal to any reader curious about the history of ideas and the arts."—Jean-Baptiste Evette, translator and novelist
"A rare combination of intelligence and accessibility, scholarship and pleasurable reading, Yellow is filled with interesting facts and anecdotes. It makes an important contribution to a whole range of humanistic disciplines and will also appeal to general readers."—David O'Brien, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
Praise for Michel Pastoureau's Blue"Pastoureau's text moves us through one fascinating area of activity after another. . . . The jacket, cover and end-papers of this luscious book are appropriately blue; its double-columned text breathes easily in the space of its pages; it is so well sewn it opens flat at any place; and fascinating, aptly chosen color plates, not confined to the title color, will please even those eyes denied the good luck of being blue."—William H. Gass, Los Angeles Times Book Review"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."—Chicago TribunePraise for Michel Pastoureau's Green"Comprehensive and lavishly illustrated."—Natalie Angier, New York Times"Sumptuously illustrated. . . . These are books to look at, but they are also books to read. . . . Individual colors find their being only in relation to each other, and their cultural force depends on the particular instance of their use. They have no separate life or essential meaning. They have been made to mean, and in these volumes that human endeavor has found its historian."—Michael Gorra, New York Review of Books