Colourful Discoveries — exploring Newcastle’s museum collections through colour: Red

by Helen Vasey, Assistant Keeper of History, Discovery Museum

Step into a world of colour. Discover fascinating objects from across Discovery Museum’s wonderful collections through a kaleidoscopic lens.

Each week we will focus on a different colour linked to our new Google Arts & Culture online exhibition. This week we’re looking into the colour red.

Red has come to symbolise strong, and sometimes contrasting emotions such as anger, danger, love and passion.

TWCMS : 6799a (left) and TWCMS : 1996 : 2104 (right)
TWCMS : 2009 : 692a (left), TWCMS : 2005 : 3069 (middle) and TWCMS : 2007 : 2022 (right)

Red is one of the oldest colours used in art and can be seen in ancient cave paintings. Red pigment is widely available in nature. Cochineal insects are one of the most vibrant natural sources of pigment. It was imported to Europe in the 16th century from Mexico. In the middle of the 19th century, synthetic red dyes were invented.

TWCMS : K13967a (left), TWCMS : J2553a (middle) and TWCMS: E4475a (right)
TWCMS : J2359a (left) and TWCMS : J3912a (right)

Roses are red…. In some Asian countries red is the colour of happiness and good luck. In China red envelopes with money inside are given out at special occasions and red outfits and decorations are common at New Year. In India, bridal outfits are red and married women show their marital status with red henna on their hands. Red is also linked to love, most Valentine’s Day cards and gifts are red and red roses are a traditional token of love. Conversely red is also connected to anger, ‘seeing red’ describes someone caught in a rage. The Roman god of war was linked to the colour red.

TWCMS : J6286 (left) and TWCMS : K1777a (right)
TWCMS : S29a (left), TWCMS : 2009 : 3805a (middle) and TWCMS : K13957d

Did you know? There is a theory that the colour red stimulates appetite, many restaurant chains use red for their logo.

TWCMS : 2005 : 3088 (left), TWCMS : 2010 : 3622 (middle) and TWCMS : 2010 : 3639 (right)
TWCMS : J18242a (left), TWCMS : 2009 : 3784a (middle) and TWCMS : 2009 : 3734a (right)

If you would like to delve deeper into Discovery’s colourful collections, you can explore the online exhibition here.

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