From antiquity to the present day, color has been embedded with cultural meaning. Associated with blood, fire, fertility, and the life force, the color red has always been extremely difficult to achieve and thus highly prized. This book discusses the origin of the red colorant derived from the insect cochineal, its early use in Precolumbian ritual textiles from Mexico and Peru, and the spread of the American dyestuff through cultural interchange following the Spanish discovery and conquest of the New World in the 16th century. Drawing on examples from the collections of the Metropolitan Museum, it documents the use of this red-colored treasure in several media and throughout the world.
Elena Phipps is senior museum conservator in the Department of Textile Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.