Herman Pleij

Colors Demonic and Divine

Over kleuren van de Middeleeuwen en daarna

Shades of Meaning in the Middle Ages and After

Contrary to the drab images of the period popularized in the media today, parades of vibrant color were on display at every level of Medieval European society. Not only did clothing sport gaudy and often clashing colors, but food, statues, animals, even hair and beards flaunted the most brazen hues. Yet not everyone revered color; many believed it to be an ephemeral, worldly deception and a sign of immorality.

Towards the end of the Medieval period, perceptions of color became emblematic of broader cultural issues. Black and blue, primarily associated with asceticism, sorrowand humility, became the colors of royalty and the urban aristocracy, while bright, flashy colors came to be associated with the devil who, it was believed, had painted the world in tempting hues to lure humanity into sin and away from the path of eternal salvation. As a result, every Godfearing person began to avoid colorful displays, choosing instead more somber shades, a preference still seen today in the blacks and dark blues of our offices and boardrooms.

Colors Demonic and Divine looks at painting, fashion, poetry, heraldry, religion and history to tell the story of Medieval attitudes to color and the profound and pervasive influence they still have on our own societies.

Including a wealth of vivid detail and ranging over theology, poetry, painting, heraldry, fashion, and daily life, this book elucidates the attitudes toward color in medieval times and the effect these attitudes still have on modern society.

Publishers Weekly


Herman Pleij

Herman Pleij (b. 1943) is an emeritus professor of medieval literature at the University of Amsterdam. His work focuses mainly on the cultural history of literature, the development of commonplace morality and the formation of Dutch identities in general. Previous titles include the bestselling The

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Van karmijn, purper en blauw. Over kleuren van de Middeleeuwen en daarna (2002). Non-fiction, 171 pages.
Words: 31,000

Themes: middle ages



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