Violet (color)


Amatista Laye 2.jpg
Manganese violet.jpg
Devon Violets. Viola odorata (33624079715).jpg
Spectral coordinates
Wavelength380–435 nm
Frequency790–690 THz
About these coordinates     Color coordinates
Hex triplet#7F00FF
HSV       (h, s, v)(270°, 100%, 100%)
sRGBB  (rgb)(127, 0, 255)
B: Normalized to [0–255] (byte)
H: Normalized to [0–100] (hundred)

Violet is the color of light at the short wavelength end of the visible spectrum, between blue and invisible ultraviolet. However, even among native speakers of English there is confusion about the meaning of the term, for example when comparing speakers from the United Kingdom with those from the United States (see more below).[2] Violet is one of the seven colors that Isaac Newton labeled when dividing the spectrum of visible light in 1672. Violet light has a wavelength between approximately 380 and 435 nanometers.[3] The color's name is derived from the violet flower.[4][5]

In the RGB color model used in computer and television screens, violet is produced by mixing red and blue light, with more blue than red. In the RYB color model historically used by painters, violet and purple are created with a combination of red and blue pigments, and both colors are located between blue and red on the color wheel. In the CMYK color model used in printing, violet is created with a combination of magenta and cyan pigments, with more magenta than cyan.

Purple, and possibly also violet, has a long history of association with royalty, originally because Tyrian purple dye was extremely expensive in antiquity.[6] The emperors of Rome wore purple togas, as did the Byzantine emperors. During the Middle Ages purple and/or violet was worn by bishops and university professors and was often used in art as the color of the robes of the Virgin Mary.[7] In Chinese painting, the color purple and/or violet represents the "unity transcending the duality of Yin and yang" and "the ultimate harmony of the universe".[8] In Hinduism and Buddhism purple and/or violet is associated with the Crown Chakra.[9] According to surveys in Europe and the United States, purple and/or violet is the color people most often associate with extravagance and individualism, the unconventional, the artificial, and ambiguity.[10]

Etymology and definitions

The line of purples circled on the CIE chromaticity diagram. The bottom left of curved edge is violet. Points near and along the circled edge are purple.

The word violet as a color name derives from the Middle English and Old French violete, in turn from the Latin viola, names of the violet flower.[4][5] The first recorded use as a color name in English was in 1370.[11]

Violet and purple

Violet is closely associated with purple. The terms violet and purple both have different meanings in different languages and countries. Even among modern native speakers of English there is confusion about the terms purple and violet.[2] In the United Kingdom, many native speakers of English refer to the blue-dominated spectral color beyond blue as violet, but this color is called purple by many speakers in the United States.[12][13] In some texts the term violet refers to any color between red and blue.[14] However, there are also authoritative texts from the United Kingdom in which this same range of colors is referred to by the term purple.[15] When including languages other than English, and epochs other than the modern period, the uncertainty about the meanings of the color terms violet and purple is even larger.[16] Since this Wikipedia page contains contributions from authors from different countries and different native languages, it is likely to be not consistent in the use of the color terms violet and purple.

In optics, the term violet is sometimes used to refer specifically to a spectral color (referring to the color of different single wavelengths of light) and in that case the term purple refers to the color of various combinations of red and blue (or violet) light,[17][18] some of which humans perceive as similar to violet. In the traditional painters' color wheel, violet and purple are both placed between blue and red.

In humans, the L (red) cone in the eye is primarily sensitive to long wavelength light in the yellow-red region of the spectrum, but is also somewhat sensitive to the shorter wavelength violet light that primarily stimulates the S (blue) cone. As a result, when violet light strikes the eye, the S-cone is stimulated strongly and the L-cone is stimulated weakly. Accordingly, strong blue light mixed with weaker red light can mimic this pattern of stimulation, causing humans to perceive colors that have the same hue as violet, but with lower saturation.[citation needed] Computer and television screens rely on this phenomenon. Because they use the RGB color model, they cannot produce violet light and instead substitute purple, combining blue light at high intensity with red light of approximately half the intensity.

In science


Linear visible spectrum.svg

Violet is at one end of the spectrum of visible light, between blue light, which has a longer wavelength, and ultraviolet light, which has a shorter wavelength and is not visible to humans. Violet encompasses light with a wavelength of approximately 380 to 450 nanometers. Violet objects often appear dark, because human vision is relatively insensitive to those wavelengths.

Chemistry – pigments and dyes

The earliest purple and/or violet (depending on the definition of these color terms) pigments used by humans, found in prehistoric cave paintings, were made from the minerals manganese and hematite. Manganese is still used today by the Aranda people, a group of indigenous Australians, as a traditional pigment for coloring the skin during rituals. It is also used by the Hopi Indians of Arizona to color ritual objects.

The most famous purple dye in the ancient world was Tyrian purple, made from a type of sea snail called the murex, found around the Mediterranean.

In western Polynesia, residents of the islands made a purple and/or violet dye similar to Tyrian purple from the sea urchin. In Central America, the inhabitants made a dye from a different sea snail, the purpura, found on the coasts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. The Mayans used this color to dye fabric for religious ceremonies, and the Aztecs used it for paintings of ideograms, where it symbolized royalty.[19]

Recent investigations have shown that artists very rarely used violet colors in paintings and other art works created before circa 1860.[16] In older publications where violet is mentioned in relation to art works created before 1860, this refers to colors between red and blue in which red dominates, and hence would be better referred to as purple if following most speakers of British English.

During the Middle Ages, artists made purple (or, more rarely, violet) on their paintings by combining red and blue pigments; usually blue azurite or lapis-lazuli with red ochre, cinnabar or minium.[16] They also combined lake colors made by mixing dye with powder; using woad or indigo dye for the blue, and dye made from cochineal for the red.[19]

Orcein, or purple moss, was another common purple dye (sometimes referred to as violet). It was known to the ancient Greeks and Hebrews, was made from a Mediterranean lichen called archil or dyer's moss (Roccella tinctoria), combined with an ammoniac, usually urine. Orcein began to achieve popularity again in the 19th century, when violet and purple became the color of demi-mourning, worn after a widow or widower had worn black for a certain time, before he or she returned to wearing ordinary colors.[20]

In the 18th century, chemists in England, France and Germany began to create the first synthetic dyes. Two synthetic purple dyes were invented at about the same time. Cudbear is a dye extracted from orchil lichens that can be used to dye wool and silk, without the use of mordant. Cudbear was developed by Dr. Cuthbert Gordon of Scotland; production began in 1758. The lichen is first boiled in a solution of ammonium carbonate. The mixture is then cooled and ammonia is added and the mixture is kept damp for 3–4 weeks. Then the lichen is dried and ground to powder. The manufacturing details were carefully protected, with a wall ten feet high being built around the manufacturing facility, and staff consisting of Highlanders sworn to secrecy.

French purple was developed in France at about the same time. The lichen is extracted by urine or ammonia. Then the extract is acidified, the dissolved dye precipitates and is washed. Then it is dissolved in ammonia again, the solution is heated in air until it becomes purple, then it is precipitated with calcium chloride; the resulting dye was more solid and stable than other purples.

Cobalt violet is a synthetic pigment that was invented in the second half of the 19th century, and is made by a similar process as cobalt blue, cerulean blue and cobalt green. It is the purple/violet pigment most commonly used today by artists, along with manganese violet. In spite of its name, this pigment produces a purple rather than violet color [16]

Mauveine, also known as aniline purple and Perkin's mauve, was the first synthetic organic chemical dye,[21][22] discovered serendipitously in 1856. Its chemical name is 3-amino-2,±9-dimethyl-5-phenyl-7-(p-tolylamino) phenazinium acetate.

In the 1950s, a new family of violet synthetic organic pigments called quinacridones came onto the market. They had originally been discovered in 1896, but were not synthetized until 1936, and not manufactured until the 1950s. The colors in the group range from deep red to violet in color, and have the molecular formula C20H12N2O2. They have strong resistance to sunlight and washing, and are used in oil paints, water colors, and acrylics, as well as in automobile coatings and other industrial coatings.



In history and art

Prehistory and antiquity

Purple (sometimes referred to as violet) is one of the oldest colors used by humans. Traces of very dark purple/violet, made by grinding the mineral manganese, mixed with water or animal fat and then brushed on the cave wall or applied with the fingers, are found in the prehistoric cave art in Pech Merle, in France, dating back about twenty-five thousand years. It has also been found in the cave of Altamira and Lascaux.[23] It was sometimes used as an alternative to black charcoal. Sticks of manganese, used for drawing, have been found at sites occupied by Neanderthals in France and Israel. From the grinding tools at various sites, it appears it may also have been used to color the body and to decorate animal skins.

More recently, the earliest dates on cave paintings have been pushed back farther than 35,000 years. Hand paintings on rock walls in Australia may be even older, dating back as far as 50,000 years.

Berries of the genus rubus, such as blackberries, were a common source of dyes in antiquity. The ancient Egyptians made a kind of purple/violet dye by combining the juice of the mulberry with crushed green grapes. The Roman historian Pliny the Elder reported that the Gauls used a purple/violet dye made from bilberry to color the clothing of slaves. These dyes made a satisfactory purple, but it faded quickly in sunlight and when washed.[24]

The Middle Ages and the Renaissance

Purple/violet retained its status as the color of emperors and princes of the church throughout the long rule of the Byzantine Empire.

While purple/violet was worn less frequently by Medieval and Renaissance kings and princes, it was worn by the professors of many of Europe's new universities. Their robes were modeled after those of the clergy, and they often wore square purple/violet caps and purple/violet robes, or black robes with purple/violet trim.

Purple/violet also played an important part in the religious paintings of the Renaissance. Angels and the Virgin Mary were often portrayed wearing purple/violet robes. The 15th-century Florentine painter Cennino Cennini advised artists: "If you want to make a lovely purple/violet colour, take fine lacca, ultramarine blue (the same amount of the one as of the other)..." For fresco painters, he advised a less-expensive version, made of a mixture of blue indigo and red hematite.[25]

18th and 19th centuries

In the 18th century, purple was a color worn by royalty, aristocrats and the wealthy, and by both men and women. Good-quality purple fabric was expensive, and beyond the reach of ordinary people.

The first cobalt violet, the intensely red-violet cobalt arsenate, was highly toxic. Although it persisted in some paint lines into the twentieth-century, it was displaced by less toxic cobalt compounds such as cobalt phosphate. Cobalt violet appeared in the second half of the 19th century, broadening the palette of artists with its range of purple colors. Cobalt violet was used by Paul Signac (1863–1935), Claude Monet (1840–1926), and Georges Seurat (1859–1891).[26] Today, cobalt ammonium phosphate, cobalt lithium phosphate, and cobalt phosphate are available for use by artists. Cobalt ammonium phosphate is the most reddish of the three. Cobalt phosphate is available in two varieties — a deep less saturated blueish type and a lighter and brighter somewhat more reddish type. Cobalt lithium phosphate is a saturated lighter-valued bluish violet. A color similar to cobalt ammonium phosphate, cobalt magnesium borate, was introduced in the later twentieth-century but was not deemed sufficiently lightfast for artistic use. Cobalt violet is the only truly lightfast purple pigment with relatively strong color saturation. All other light-stable purple/violet pigments are dull by comparison. However, the high price of the pigment and the toxicity of cobalt has limited its use.

In the 1860s, the popularity of using violet colors suddenly rose among painters and other artists.[16] For example, Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) was an avid student of color theory. He used violet in many of his paintings of the 1880s, including his paintings of irises and the swirling and mysterious skies of his starry night paintings, and often combined it with its complementary color, yellow. In his painting of his bedroom in Arles (1888), he used several sets of complementary colors; violet and yellow, red and green, and orange and blue. In a letter about the painting to his brother Theo, he wrote, "The color here...should be suggestive of sleep and repose in general....The walls are a pale violet. The floor is of red tiles. The wood of the bed and the chairs are fresh butter yellow, the sheet and the pillows light lemon green. The bedspread bright scarlet. The window green. The bed table orange. The bowl blue. The doors lilac....The painting should rest the head or the imagination."[27]

In 1856, a young British chemist named William Henry Perkin was trying to make a synthetic quinine. His experiments produced instead an unexpected residue, which turned out to be the first synthetic aniline dye, a deep purple [16] color called mauveine, or abbreviated simply to mauve (the dye being named after the lighter color of the mallow [mauve] flower). Used to dye clothes, it became extremely fashionable among the nobility and upper classes in Europe, particularly after Queen Victoria wore a silk gown dyed with mauveine to the Royal Exhibition of 1862. Prior to Perkin's discovery, mauve was a color which only the aristocracy and rich could afford to wear. Perkin developed an industrial process, built a factory, and produced the dye by the ton, so almost anyone could wear mauve. It was the first of a series of modern industrial dyes which completely transformed both the chemical industry and fashion.[28]

20th and 21st centuries

Five presidents in the oval office. The two more recent presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, are wearing violet ties.

Violet or purple neckties became popular at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, particularly among political and business leaders.[citation needed]

In culture

Cultural associations

In Western culture

Popularity of the color
  • In Europe and America, violet is not a popular color; in a European survey, only three percent of men and women rated it as their favorite color, ranking it behind blue, green, red, black and yellow (in that order), and tied with orange. Ten percent of respondents rated it their least favorite color; only brown, pink and gray were more unpopular.[10]
The color of royalty and luxury
  • Because of its status as the color of Roman emperors, and as a color worn by monarchs and princes, the color purple/violet is often associated with luxury. Certain luxury goods, such as watches and jewelry, are often placed in boxes lined with purple/violet velvet, since purple/violet is the complementary color of yellow, and shows gold to best advantage.
Vanity, extravagance, and individualism
  • While purple/violet is the color of humility in the symbolism of the Catholic Church, it has exactly the opposite meaning in general society. A European poll in 2000 showed it was the color most commonly associated with vanity.[29] As a color that rarely exists in nature, and a color which by its nature attracts attention, it is seen as a color of individualism and extravagance.
Ambiguity and ambivalence
  • Surveys show that violet and purple are the colors most associated with ambiguity and ambivalence.

In Asian culture

A Japanese woman in the kimono style popular in the Heian period (794–1185) with a violet head covering.
  • In Japan, purple/violet was a popular color introduced into Japanese dress during the Heian Period (794–1185). The dye was made from the root of the alkanet plant (Anchusa officinalis), known as murasaki in Japanese. At about the same time, Japanese painters began to use a pigment made from the same plant.[30]

New Age



The Susan B. Anthony stamp (1936), was the reddish tone of purple sometimes known as red-violet since violet was a color that represented the Women's Suffrage movement.

Social movement

Violet flowers and their color became symbolically associated with lesbian love.[43] It was used as a special code by lesbians and bisexual women for self-identification and also to communicate support for the sexual preference.[44][45] This connection originates from the poet Sappho and fragments of her poems. In one poem, she describes a lost love wearing a garland of "violet tiaras, braided rosebuds, dill and crocus twined around" her neck.[46] In another fragment, she recalls her lover as having "put around yourself [many wreaths] of violets and roses."[47][48]


Media related to Purple flags at Wikimedia Commons

See also


  1. ^ "Color Violet". Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  2. ^ a b Fehrman, K.R.; Fehrman, C. (2004). Color - the secret influence. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education.
  3. ^ Georgia State University Department of Physics and Astronomy. "Spectral Colors". HyperPhysics site. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  4. ^ a b "violet, n.1". OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Violet". Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Retrieved 6 April 2020.
  6. ^ Dunn, Casey (9 October 2013). "The Color of Royalty, Bestowed by Science and Snails". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 4 April 2020.
  7. ^ Elliot, Charlene (Winter 2008). "Purple pasts: Color codification in the ancient world". Law and Social Inquiry. 33 (1): 173–194. doi:10.1111/j.1747-4469.2008.00097.x. S2CID 145236881. Retrieved 26 June 2021.
  8. ^ Varichon, Anne Colors:What They Mean and How to Make Them New York:2006 Abrams Page 138
  9. ^
  10. ^ a b Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur: effets et symboliques. p. 4. "La plus individualist et extravagant des coulours." (associated by 26 percent of respondents to survey with "extravagance", by 22 percent with "individualism" , 24 percent with "vanity", 21 percent with "ambiguity").
  11. ^ Maerz and Paul A Dictionary of Color New York: 1930 McGraw-Hill Page 207
  12. ^ Matschi, M. (2005). "Color terms in English: Onomasiological and Semasiological aspects". Onomasiology Online. 5: 56–139.
  13. ^ Spence, N. (1989). "The Linguistic Field of Colour Terms in French". Zeitschrift für romanische Philologie. 105 (5–6): 472–497. doi:10.1515/zrph.1989.105.5-6.472. S2CID 161984015.
  14. ^ Cooper, A.C.; McLaren, K. (1973). "The ANLAB colour system and the dyer's variables of "shade" and strength". J. Soc. Dyers Colorists. 89 (2): 41–45. doi:10.1111/j.1478-4408.1973.tb03128.x.
  15. ^ Matschi, M. (2005). "Color terms in English: Onomasiological and Semasiological aspects". Onomasiology Online. 5: 56–139.
  16. ^ a b c d e f Tager, A.; Kirchner, E.; Fedorovskaya, E. (2021). "Computational evidence of first extensive usage of violet in the 1860s". Color Research & Application. 46 (5): 961–977. doi:10.1002/col.22638. S2CID 233671776.
  17. ^ P. U.P. A Gilbert and Willy Haeberli (2008). Physics in the Arts. Academic Press. p. 112. ISBN 978-0-12-374150-9.
  18. ^ Louis Bevier Spinney (1911). A Text-book of Physics. Macmillan Co. p. 573.
  19. ^ a b Anne Carichon (2000), Couleurs: pigments et teintures dans les mains des peuples. p. 133
  20. ^ Anne Carichon (2000), Couleurs: pigments et teintures dans les mains des peuples. p. 144
  21. ^ Hubner K (2006). "History – 150 Years of mauveine". Chemie in unserer Zeit. 40 (4): 274–275. doi:10.1002/ciuz.200690054.
  22. ^ Anthony S. Travis (1990). "Perkin's Mauve: Ancestor of the Organic Chemical Industry". Technology and Culture. 31 (1): 51–82. doi:10.2307/3105760. JSTOR 3105760.
  23. ^ Phillip Ball (2001), Bright earth- Art and the Invention of Colour, p. 84
  24. ^ Anne Varichon (2000), Couleurs: pigments et teintures dans les mains des peuples, p. 146–148
  25. ^ Lara Broecke, Cennino cennini's Il Libro dell'Arte: a New English Translation and Commentary with Italian Transcription, Archetype 2015, p. 115
  26. ^ Isabel Roelofs (2012), La couleur expliquée aux artistes, p. 52–53
  27. ^ John Gage (2006), La Couleur dans l'art, p. 50–51. Citing Letter 554 from Van Gogh to Theo. (translation of excerpt by D.R. Siefkin)
  28. ^ Garfield, S. (2000). Mauve: How One Man Invented a Colour That Changed the World. Faber and Faber, London, UK. ISBN 978-0-571-20197-6.
  29. ^ Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur: effets et symboliques, p. 167
  30. ^ Anne Varichon, Couleurs: pigments et teintures dans les mains des peuples, p. 139
  31. ^ Bailey, Alice A. (1995). The Seven Rays of Life. New York: Lucis Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0-85330-142-4.
  32. ^ "St. Germain" (dictated through Elizabeth Clare Prophet) Studies in Alchemy: the Science of Self-Transformation 1974:Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA Summit Lighthouse Pages 80–90 [Occult] Biographical sketch of St. Germain
  33. ^ Stained glass window in the Cathedral of the Angels in Los Angeles, California depicting God the Father wearing a purple/violet robe:
  34. ^ Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur: effets et symboliques. p. 166
  35. ^ Stevens, Samantha. The Seven Rays: a Universal Guide to the Archangels. City: Insomniac Press, 2004. ISBN 1-894663-49-7 p. 24
  36. ^ LaCroix, Allison (26 October 2015). "The National Woman's Party And the Meaning Behind Their Purple, White, and Gold Textiles". National Woman's Party. Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. Archived from the original on 9 November 2016. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  37. ^ Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur: effets et symboliques. illustration 75
  38. ^ "Dress & the Suffragettes". Chertsey Museum. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  39. ^ Blackman, Cally (8 October 2015). "How the Suffragettes used fashion to further the cause". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  40. ^ "WSPU Flag". Parliament of the United Kingdom. Retrieved 1 September 2021.
  41. ^
  42. ^ "Die Violetten - Neue Ideen in der Politik". Die Violetten.
  43. ^ "Gay Symbols Through the Ages". The Alyson Almanac: A Treasury of Information for the Gay and Lesbian Community. Boston, Massachusetts: Alyson Publications. 1989. p. 100. ISBN 0-932870-19-8.
  44. ^ Myers, JoAnne (2003). Historical Dictionary of the Lesbian Liberation Movement: Still the Rage (1st ed.). Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press. p. 242. ISBN 978-0810845060. LCCN 2002156624.
  45. ^ Horak, Laura (2016). "Lesbians Take Center Stage: The Captive (1926–1928)". Girls Will Be Boys: Cross-Dressed Women, Lesbians, and American Cinema, 1908-1934. Rutgers University Press. pp. 143–144. ISBN 978-0-8135-7483-7.
  46. ^ Barnard, Mary (1958). Sappho: A New Translation (1st ed.). University of California Press. p. 42. ISBN 9780520223127. LCCN 58006520.
  47. ^ Collecott, Diana (1999). H.D. and Sapphic Modernism 1910–1950 (1st ed.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. p. 216. ISBN 978-0-521-55078-9.
  48. ^ Fantham, Elaine; Foley, Helene Peet; Kampen, Natalie Boymel; Pomeroy, Sarah B.; Shapiro, H. A. (1994). Women in the Classical World: Image and Text (1st ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-0-19-506727-9.
  • Ball, Philip (2001). Bright Earth, Art and the Invention of Colour. Hazan (French translation). ISBN 978-2-7541-0503-3.
  • Heller, Eva (2009). Psychologie de la couleur: Effets et symboliques. Pyramyd (French translation). ISBN 978-2-35017-156-2.
  • Pastoureau, Michel (2005). Le petit livre des couleurs. Editions du Panama. ISBN 978-2-7578-0310-3.
  • Gage, John (1993). Colour and Culture - Practice and Meaning from Antiquity to Abstraction. Thames and Hudson (Page numbers cited from French translation). ISBN 978-2-87811-295-5.
  • Gage, John (2006). La Couleur dans l'art. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 978-2-87811-325-9.
  • Varichon, Anne (2000). Couleurs: pigments et teintures dans les mains des peuples. Seuil. ISBN 978-2-02084697-4.
  • Zuffi, Stefano (2012). Color in Art. Abrams. ISBN 978-1-4197-0111-5.
  • Roelofs, Isabelle (2012). La couleur expliquée aux artistes. Groupe Eyrolles. ISBN 978-2-212-13486-5.
  • Broecke, Lara (2015). Cennino Cennini's Il Libro dell'Arte: a New English Translation and Commentary with Italian Transcription. Archetype. ISBN 978-1-909492-28-8.

External links

  • Media related to Violet at Wikimedia Commons