Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/375

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THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RED.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF RED.
By HAVELOCK ELLIS.

AMONG all colors, the most poignantly emotional tone undoubtedly belongs to red. The ancient observation concerning the resemblance of scarlet to the notes of a trumpet has often been repeated, though it was probably unknown to the young Japanese lady who, on hearing a boy sing in a fine contralto voice, exclaimed: "That boy's voice is red." On the one hand, red is the color that idiots most easily learn to recognize; on the other hand, Kirchhoff, the chemist, called it the most aristocratic of colors; Pouchet, the zoologist, was inclined to think that it was a color apart, not to be paralleled with any other chromatic sensation, and recalled that the retinal pigment is red; Laycock, the physician, confessed that he preferred the gorgeous red tints of an autumn sunset to either musical sounds or gustatory flavors. Artists more cautious than men of science in expressing such a preference—knowing that a color possesses its special virtue in relation to other colors, and that all are of infinite variety—yet easily reveal, one may often note, a predilection for red by introducing it into scenes where it is not naturally obvious, whether we turn to a great landscape painter like Constable or to a great figure painter like Rubens, who, with the development of his genius, displayed even greater daring in the introduction of red pigments into his work.

In all parts of the world red is symbolical of joyous emotion. Often, either alone or in association with yellow, occasionally with green, it is the fortunate or sacred color. In lauds so far apart as France and Madagascar scarlet garments were at one time the exclusive privilege of the royal family. A great many different colors are symbolical of mourning in various parts of the world; white, gray, yellow, brown, blue, violet, black can be so used, but, so far as I am aware, red never. Everywhere we find, again, that red pigments and dyes, and especially red ochre, are apparently the first to be used at the beginning of civilization, and that they usually continue to be preferred even after other colors are introduced. There is indeed one quarter of the globe where the allied color of yellow, which often elsewhere is the favorite after red, may be said to come first. In a region of which the Malay peninsula is the center and which includes a large part of China. Burmah and the lower coast of India, yellow is the sacred and preferred color, but this is the only large district which presents us with any exception to the general rule, among either higher or lower races, and since yellow falls into the