Within most medieval books of hours, there were ecclesiastical calendars that had important holy days printed in red. This was a type of textual highlighting used to call attention to important festivals; a visual language that had long indicated significant textual features, paragraph organization, and wordplay (e.g. acrostics). The Latin word for red ochre and red coloring in general was rubrīca. As such, making a text red is called "rubrication" and influenced the original use for the word "rubric." The practice of coloring significant dates in red is perhaps best known through the English idiom of a "red letter day."
Last week, Candida Moss and I were lucky enough to catch the tail end of The World between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East, an exhibition which opened March 18 and closes on June 23, 2019 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The 190 objects within the exhibition acquired from... Continue Reading →
My latest piece for Hyperallergic addresses the long history of red caps as symbols of politics, ethnicity, and identity. From Mithras to the Smurfs, there is a rich history of using identifying hats. This article was also an opportunity for me to post some photos of Mithras I have taken over the years--and to include a few... Continue Reading →
Dura-Europos is an ancient site on the Euphrates river in modern-day Syria. The objects excavated at the site by Yale University (later famously led by Mikhail Rostovtzeff), and the French Academy of Inscriptions and Letters during the 1920s and 1930s provide some of the most vivid wall paintings, mosaics, and material culture from the ancient world... Continue Reading →
It has been a few days since I published a piece on my Forbes blog regarding the perception of whiteness and statues in antiquity. I knew when I started taking notes on the subject of polychromy many months ago that this column would likely cause a stir within the field, among colleagues, and online. I had... Continue Reading →
Over on the Forbes blog, I talk about the history of dress codes for women. As anyone who reads this blog knows, I think a lot about clothing, color, and historical dress. This post is reacting to the recent burkini bans in towns along the French Riviera by mentioning the fact that Sparta, Rome, the... Continue Reading →
Romans often reserved the dark colors of mourning for a trip to the courtroom. Usually it was the defendants who chose to clothe themselves in dark and ragged vestments--though some people broke with this habit. In a letter dated to 468 CE, the diplomat and bishop Sidonius Apollinaris discussed the treason trial of a friend and Praetorian prefect named Arvandus... Continue Reading →