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A Red Like No Other: How Cochineal Colored the World

Edited by Carmella Padilla and Barbara Anderson

  • September 1, 2015
  • Hardcover
  • Art - Collections, Catalogs, Exhibitions - General
  • Skira Rizzoli
  • 9 x 11
  • $60.00
  • $60.00
  • 978-0-8478-4643-6

About This Book

The captivating story of the pursuit of the most powerful color. A global symbol of power, wealth, mystery, and sexuality, red has seduced viewers and inspired artists for millennia. Painters and other artists engaged in a quest for the source of the perfect red that conveyed the luxury, spirit, and substance of living. In the 1520s, Spanish explorers found it in the grand Aztec markets—in a dye derived from the cochineal insect. The ensuing global spread of American cochineal changed art, culture, science, and trade for centuries.
A Red Like No Other follows the precious bug juice from Mexico to Europe and beyond as it insinuated itself into all forms of art, politics, and commerce to color the world in vivid red hues. The images show how the colorant touched cultures and artists worldwide, including pre-Columbian weavers, painters of Spain’s Golden Age, Middle Eastern rug makers, and Navajo weavers. El Greco, Tintoretto, Velázquez, van Dyck, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and van Gogh used it, as did Spanish fashion icon Mariano Fortuny. Today contemporary artists and designers continue to embrace the colorant for its beauty and meaning. An international team of more than forty scholars and experts brings a wide spectrum of original research on the symbolic meaning of red, the material meaning of cochineal in art and trade, and the history of the artists driven to find the perfect red.

About the Author

Editor and author Carmella Padilla and editor and art historian Barbara Anderson are independent curators of the related exhibition. Other essay contributors include Elena Phipps, former conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Jo Kirby, Senior Conservation Scientist Emeritus at the National Gallery, London; and Mary Miller, Sterling Professor of the History of Art at Yale University.


  • "Page through A Red Like No Other, and you're stuck again and again with astonishment at the sumptuous full-page images of clothing made with cochineal--at the radiant beauty of a salmon silk cloak trimmed in silver from 16th century France, a vibrant red wool surcoat from 19th century Japan, a pair of sturdily exquisite red silk shoes with gold tracery from 18th century Spain and the elegant haute couture Eleanora dress that designer Mariano Fortuny created in the 1930s for a favorite Italian actress." 

    "You will never look at red in the same way again. This beautiful new volume covers the color red in art, crafts, fashion, design, power, royalty, religion and interiors, with 350 color illustrations.
    A Red Like No Other follows the substance from Mexico to Europe and beyond. . .  I loved its esoteric approach, showing how red touched cultures worldwide, including pre-Columbian weavers, Italian textile dyers, painters of Spain’s Golden Age, and nineteenth-century Navajo weavers. El Greco, Tintoretto, Velázquez, van Dyck, Rembrandt, Vermeer, and van Gogh used it, as did Spanish fashion icon Mariano Fortuny. Today, contemporary artists and designers continue to love all shades of red for its evocative beauty and symbolic meaning."
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