Blue in Ancient History – Tirreno Elba News

From another Elba

LAPISLAZZULI, THE MOST NOBLE BLUE OF ART, came from the guts of the Badakhshan Mountains of Afghanistan, “where the most beautiful lapis lazuli in the world are found”. Marco Polo XIII century.

The strange name of this stone comes from the Latin lapis, stone and lazulum, blue or celestial, which in turn probably comes from the Persian ‘lazhuward’. Its history is very ancient and dates back to more than 7000 years ago in the surroundings of the ancient Mesopotamian civilization of the Sumerians. Mentioned in the epic Gilgamesh, it is found in statuettes and pottery in the royal tombs of the ancient city of Ur. The Egyptians also loved the gemstone and considered it the bearer of a divine strength. It was used in jewels found in the tombs of Egyptian pharaohs and for decorating funeral masks, such as the famous eyebrows from Tutankhamun’s funeral mask (1341-1323 BC).

The stone is found in fairly rare deposits in China, Chile and Russia. But the real homeland of these intense blue rocks is Afghanistan and especially the guts of the mountains of Badakhshan, the northeastern part of the country, the oldest lapis lazuli mine in the world. It was very expensive to import lapis lazuli by caravan through the desert from Afghanistan to Egypt. From around 2500 BC. the ancient Egyptians began to make their own blue pigment by grinding silica, lime, copper and alkali and heating it to 800 or 900 degrees Celsius. This is considered to be the first synthetic pigment. Egyptian blue was used to paint wood, papyrus and canvas, and was used to color a glaze to make earthenware beads, inlays and vases. It was especially used in funeral statues and in figures and tomb paintings.

Blue was considered a beneficial color that would protect the dead from the evil of the afterlife. Blue color was also used to color the fabric in which the mummies were wrapped. He was associated with heaven and divinity. The Egyptian god Amun could make his skin blue so he could fly, invisibly, across the sky. Even today, according to some beliefs, the blue would protect against evil, many people around the Mediterranean wear a blue amulet, which represents the eye of God, to protect them from misfortune. The Ishtar Gate in ancient Babylon (604-562 BC) was decorated with dark blue glazed bricks used as a backdrop for images of lions, dragons and aurochs. The ancient Greeks used Egyptian blue in the murals at Knossos, Crete (2100 BC). It was not one of the four primary colors of Greek painting described by Pliny the Elder (red, yellow, black, and white), but it was nevertheless used as a background color behind friezes on Greek temples and to color the beards of statues. The Romans also imported indigo color, but blue was the color of working-class clothing; the nobles and the rich wore white, black, red or purple.

Blue was considered the color of grief and the color of barbarians. Julius Caesar reported that the Celts and Germans dyed their faces blue to scare their enemies and dyed their hair blue as they got older. Nevertheless, the Romans made extensive use of blue for decoration. According to Vitruvius, they made the dark blue pigment from indigo and imported the Egyptian blue pigment. The walls of the Roman villas of Pompeii had frescoes of a radiant blue sky, and blue pigments were found in the shops of the paint shops.

The Romans had many different words for varieties of blue, including caeruleus, caesius, glaucus, cyaneus, lividus, venetus, aerius, and ferreus, but two words, both of foreign origin, became the most resistant; blavi, from the Germanic word blau, which eventually turned blue; and azureus from Arabic. Dark blue was widely used in the decoration of churches in the Byzantine Empire. In Byzantine art, Christ and the Virgin Mary usually wore dark blue or purple. Blue was used as a background color representing the sky in the magnificent mosaics that decorated Byzantine churches.

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