The history of violet: Artificial Regality by Naama Agassi

By Penny Craswell

The history of the colour purple has led to its high value prior to synthetic production, meaning it has had long associations with royalty, the church and power. This is the subject of designer Naama Agassi’s latest colour research, called Artificial Regality.

Imperial Purple by Naama Agassi. Photo: Talia Rosin

According to Agassi: “In the past, the purple was a coveted colour used to denote wealth and power. This is because until it became artificially manufactured, its production was a lengthy and laborious task. It took as many as 250,000 snails to yield just one ounce of usable dye. As always in design, supply and demand generate desire and prestige.

“The status of the colour purple was completely altered in 1856, when an English chemist accidentally discovered a way to artificially synthesise a bright purple dye. Today, purple is associated with two contradictory arenas: On one hand, it is the colour of faith and piety, worn for example by Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops; on the other hand, it is strongly identified with mass-market beauty products, from cheap nail polish and perfume bottles to fake eyelashes and powder brushes.”

Alongside this research into the meaning of the colour (violet was recently named by Pantone as its colour of the year), Agassi has produced a series of objects that echo shapes including the Roman imperial helmet, Christian thurible (used to burn incense for worship) and modern-day perfume bottles.

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Imperial Purple by Naama Agassi. Photo: Talia Rosin
Imperial Purple by Naama Agassi. Photo: Talia Rosin
Imperial Purple by Naama Agassi. Photo: Talia Rosin

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