🌈 PRIDE Colour Facts: Purple

pride colour facts

July is Pride Month and today marks the beginning of Sydney Pride. As strong allies, the CBUAG launched a brand new column here on our blog where, for the past 6 weeks, we brought you fun facts about each colour in the pride rainbow! These facts could be anything from their symbolism to their origin in paint production. Click here to learn all about the colours: RED, ORANGE, YELLOW, GREEN, BLUE, PURPLE. This is our final week and we are going to look at Purple and its place in history.

Here are 7 interesting facts about the first colour of the Pride Rainbow, PURPLE.

1. How We See It

While violet is often thought of as a type of PURPLE, and is sometimes thought to be interchangeable, if we look at the light spectrum, that actually isn’t the case. PURPLE isn’t actually a colour in light, it is merely the mixture of two wavelengths (red and blue). The only “purple” that is on the spectrum is violet. The human eye can actually detect many colours that don’t have their own wavelengths. All the colours that we consider PURPLE exist along the “line of purple” that lies between red (630-740) and violet (380-420 nm). This means that pink is actually in the PURPLE family and not the red family like many think. Also, indigo is actually part of the violet family.

2. The Meaning Behind a Name

Just as PURPLE doesn’t exist in light wavelengths, true violet doesn’t exist in physical pigment. The first pigment that was created as an approximate was actually called “cobalt violet” because it was made by mixing cobalt and salt. The name, however, comes from Germanic mythology. Kobolds were mischievous goblin creatures that would inhabit mines and switch silver veins with silver looking ores that would burn your hands if touched. Since the chemical that makes this violet colour (cobalt) was thought to be detrimental to silver, it was named after the goblins that would steal it.

Kobold from "The Little White Feather", a fairy tale.

Kobold from “The Little White Feather”, a fairy tale.

3. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood

The PRB was a group of English painters, poets, and critics that was founded in 1848. This was in response, or rather in rejection, to what was being taught in the Royal Academy School which held up Raphael as the pinnacle of art. The PRB returned to the simpler style of paintings of the Renaissance which were inspired by nature. They differed greatly from their contemporaries in that they would put their colours on a white base creating vibrant pigments and were known to be enchanted with the new purple pigments that were being created at the time.

Medea by Evelyn De Morgan, 1889

Medea by Evelyn De Morgan, 1889

4. Tyrian Purple

One of the new PURPLE pigments that the PRB would have been using was Tyrian PURPLE, later known as mauve. This was the first synthetic PURPLE dye that was ever created and it was only by accident that it was discovered. William Henry Perkin , in 1856, set out to discover a synthetic alternative to quinine, a medicine. One of the byproducts his experiments created was a dark sludge. As he cleaned his flask, he realized that this sludge was purple and, eventually, that it could be used to effectively dye. Because of its lasting pigment, mauve became a very popular colour in painting and fashion.

Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, by Fyodor Rokotov.

Empress Catherine the Great of Russia, by Fyodor Rokotov.

5. Parapsychology

Many psychics who claim to have the ability to see auras say that those who have a violet aura are occult practitioners. This means that they are visionaries and will often have careers in the arts, photography, astronomy, and physics.

6. Politics

At the beginning of the 20th century began the fight for women’s right to vote in the United States and Britain. The colours that represented Women’s Suffrage were violet, green, and white as they represented liberty and dignity. In the 1970s violet also came to represent the women’s liberation, or feminist, movement.

The postage stamp issued in 1936 to honor Susan B. Anthony, a prominent leader of the suffrage movement in the United States.

The postage stamp issued in 1936 to honor Susan B. Anthony, a prominent leader of the suffrage movement in the United States.


And finally, isn’t it perfect that in Western culture PURPLE is the universal colour of the LGBTQ+ community?

Happy Pride Everyone!


5 thoughts on “🌈 PRIDE Colour Facts: Purple

  1. Pingback: 🌈 PRIDE Colour Facts: BLUE | CBU Art Gallery Blog

  2. Pingback: 🌈 PRIDE Colour Facts: GREEN | CBU Art Gallery Blog

  3. Pingback: 🌈 PRIDE Colour Facts: YELLOW | CBU Art Gallery Blog

  4. Pingback: 🌈 PRIDE Colour Facts: ORANGE | CBU Art Gallery Blog

  5. Pingback: 🌈 PRIDE Colour Facts: RED | CBU Art Gallery Blog

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