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Zoom Talk: Cochineal, the Art History of a Color

Tue Jun 15, 2021 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
UC Botanical Garden
From antiquity to the present day, color has been embedded with cultural meaning. Red—associated with blood, fire, fertility, and life force — was extremely difficult to achieve, especially on textiles, and always highly prized by cultures around the world. This lecture presents the origin of the brilliant red colorant from a humble insect, cochineal, that thrived in the ancient Americas and after the opening of global trade in the 16th century by the Spanish and Portuguese, became the most important source of red color for textiles through-out the world. Drawing on examples ranging from Precolumbian textiles, French tapestries and Chinese hangings, as well as paintings by Rembrandt and Van Gogh– the lecture presents research that documents the use of this red-colored treasure throughout the world. Elena Phipps, PhD in Precolumbian art history and archaeology was a conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for over 34 years. In addition, she co-curated several groundbreaking exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum including Tapestries and Silverwork from the Colonial Andes, 1520-1820 (in 2004) and The Interwoven Globe: World-wide textile trade, 1500-1800 (in 2013.) Dr. Phipps has written widely on the subject of textiles and color, including Cochineal Red: the art history of a color (Metropolitan Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2010). She is currently teaching textile history at UCLA in the Department of World Arts and Culture.