The History of a Color
From the acclaimed author of Blue, a beautifully illustrated history of yellow from antiquity to the present
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.
Michel Pastoureau is a historian and emeritus director of studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études de la Sorbonne in Paris. A renowned authority on the history of colors, symbols, and heraldry, he is the author of many books, including Blue, Black, Green, and Red (all Princeton). His books have been translated into more than thirty languages.