Green: What does it mean?
The obvious meanings are: spring, money, and vegetation. As of this post, it is March, so add St. Patrick’s Day. In Christian liturgical colors, it represents Epiphany. For example, St. Anne is often depicted wearing a green mantle. In pagan rites, this color symbolizes water.
As a Glaze:
In China, only royalty could possess porcelain glazed in a mysterious pale greenish color. These royal ceramics were hidden away for centuries. The color was a cloudy sea foam shade. In 1987 a secret chamber was discovered. Pieces of this royal “green” pottery came to light. This pale color is known as celadon. In fifteenth century Turkey, presumably as an antidote for poison, this celadon pottery was collected.
Green as a Fashion Statement:
History: Asian art objects came to Europe about the time of the Crusades. During the West’s Romantic period in the 1790’s, green was associated with Buddhist paintings, Persian poems and Indian mysticism. Oriental designs were applied to wallpapers made in Europe when nature became a celebrated fashion statement rather than something to be feared.
How Green became Mean:
Wallpapers of this emerald color became the rage in England during the Victorian age. When the Duke of Wellington captured Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor was exiled to a remote island, St. Helena, in the Atlantic. His bedroom was wallpapered using this hue. Weather was humid and tempestuous. After his death, a lock of his hair was saved. Then in 1960, this hair sample was analyzed. Great quantities of arsenic were found. Although cancer had been the suspected cause of death, further investigation arrived at another conclusion.
A Swedish chemist working on a green paint formula using copper arsenite named it Scheele’s Green. He did, however, worry about the potential poisonous affect of this paint. Nevertheless, manufacturers went into production with many homeowners putting up emerald colored wallpaper using Scheele’s lethal pigment. Arsenic poisoning from this practice became known when Henry Carr researched children’s deaths, whose bedrooms were wallpapered with this, and called for an investigation.
In today’s pigment manufacturing, poisonous ingredients have been replaced with synthetic materials. For a good read, go to Victoria Finlay’s Color: A Natural History of the Palette.