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Ode to Tyrian Purple

Ode to Tyrian Purple

Sold / 12x12 Oil

This painting is now available as a print, stationary, and more. 

To browse click here.


Throughout the Mediterranean, the dye Tyrian purple was prized above all others. In ancient Rome, fabric dyed with Tyrian purple was worth its weight in gold. Its intense color, as well as its expense, made it a favorite of royalty and nobility and it was coveted as a status symbol. The association between purple and royalty that persists in many cultures today originated with this ancient pigment. To make Tyrian purple, marine snails were collected by the thousands. They were then boiled for days in giant lead vats, producing a terrible odor. The snails, though, aren’t purple to begin with. The craftsmen were harvesting chemical precursors from the snails that, through heat and light, were transformed into the valuable dye. The compounds that turn purple in this process serve a defensive role in the snail — they protect the egg masses from bacterial infection. Thank you Casey Dunn of the NYT for the above info.

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