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Posts Tagged ‘blue’

Real Life Fantasy: Hemocyanin, and the colors of blood

So we’ve been talking about the history of the color blue, and one shade in particular: murex purple. Turns out that [anthropologists and archaeologists believe] blue was the last color category to enter the human lexicon, and was likely the last color to be distinguished/perceived by human eyes.

"Tangerine Moon and Wine Dark Sea," Milton Avery, 1959.
“Tangerine Moon and Wine Dark Sea,” Milton Avery, 1959.

PLUS, there’s one particular shade of blue (or indigo, depending) that is derived by extracting the blood from thousands of little ocean snails, oxidizing it, and dyeing fabric with it to create a mystical hue known as tekhelet, Tyrian purple, or (as mentioned above) murex purple, which was once more valuable than gold–partially because it became brighter when exposed to sunlight and weathering.

In the beautiful mosaic of 20th-century art and science, it was discovered how and why the blood of many earth critters can manifest so many beautiful hues.

Hemoglobin is what we humans (and most mammals) have as a means to carry oxygen to the cells in our bodies. It uses iron molecules to get the job done.

Hemocyanin, on the other hand, uses copper to do this same job in many sea creatures, including crabs, lobsters, and of course, sea snails.

Wait, copper? Like, the stuff pennies were made of?

Yep.

So how do we get blue dye from copper? I bet you’re asking.

Oxygen, and sunlight. Really! When copper oxidizes*, it turns a greenish-bluish shade.

What do you mean, you don’t believe me? You’ve seen the Statue of Liberty, right?

That French beaut is made of 3/32 in copper, protected by a lovely patina. Totally rockin’ that look, Lady Liberty!

But here’s the part that was news to me: some animals have green blood! Others have purple blood! This Vox article explains this phenomenon well.

Thanks Compound Interest for the graphic!

 

There’s no mention of animals being able to draft, though. I thought for sure there would be some mention that dissection revealed these creatures were packing luxin… Huh, I just realized sub-red drafters give whole new meaning to “packing heat”!

Okay, I’m gonna stop there.

 

*Thanks for making us do all those redox equations in AP Chem, Ms. Johnson! That knowledge finally came in handy! 😉

 

 

 

 

Real Life Fantasy: Prussian Blue & Murex Purple

In our last installment of RLF, we talked about the history of the color blue, which hopefully was enjoyed by my fellow art history enthusiasts out there.

If you were not one of those fine folks… You may not find this one intriguing either. It’s more about the color blue, along with how artists have procured and created it.

The first link is from Fast Company, specifically focusing on Prussian Blue (HERE). It is considered the first synthetic color, in that it wasn’t extracted from minerals or plants (or animals, as we’ll discuss in a bit). Prussian Blue was discovered in 1704 by German chemist Heinrich Diesbach; it’s cochineal + iron sulfate + cyanide = C18Fe7N18. (The Wiki page on Prussian Blue is a fun little rabbit hole for chemists out there.) As the article points out, this new shade of cerulean meant that the ultra-expensive ultramarine was no longer necessary for painting with blue. Which basically means without Diesbach, Picasso would probably have been some schlub painting everything Rose.

Picasso's "The Tragedy," from his Blue Period (1900-1904).
thank you pablopicasso.net

“Wait,” you may be thinking, “What does this have to do with chromaturgy, or the Seven Satrapies?”

The second link is from the LA Times, about Murex Purple (HERE).

“Wait!” you say. “I recognize that phrase… Isn’t it the color

Show Spoilers

Liv wears to signify herself as a superviolet drafter once she joins the Color Prince? *shakes fist at our favorite misunderstood traitor* And then becomes her signature color once she becomes Ferrilux?”

Wool dyed in various colors extracted from the Murex trunculus snail. (Moshe Cain)

Yes. Yes it is.

Murex purple, or tekhelet in Hebrew, is created–long story short–by extracting the blood from thousands of Murex trunculus snails, then exposing it to full-spectrum sunlight. Without the sunlight, the purplish “ink” turns fabric yellow. We know that this is because the blood contains hemocyanin, a respiratory protein that delivers oxygen to organs in many species of mollusk, including Murex trunculus.

a banded dye-murex (hexaplex trunculus)
(c) Aleksander Golemaj

Astute readers will notice the similarity of the word “hemocyanin” to “hemoglobin”… and will recognize that “cyan” in the middle is also the name of a shade of blue.

“WAIT!” you shout to your screen. “What is hemocyanin again?”

Ah ha! Patience, grasshopper. We are building the foundation for that.

Next time.

Real Life Fantasy: A Brief History of Blue

The color blue has a pretty awesome place in human history. Many professional smartypantses [archaeologists, evolutionary biologists, historians, et al] believe humans evolved the ability to perceive the color, in a gradual shift from bichromatic to trichromatic vision. Last time we shared a bit of Real Life Fantasy, it was mentioned that there’s no word for the color blue in ancient languages (including Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, among others). The coolest evidence of this lack is in Homer’s version of The Odyssey, in which he describes the sea as “wine-red” rather than any shade of blue. And if our man Homer didn’t even have a word for blue, it seems safe to expect that none of his friends had the word either.

But luckily for Ironfist, and Cruxer, and Samila Sayeh, blue started showing up in Egyptian jewelry around 4,000 BCE, and in pigment (known now as “Egyptian Blue”) around 2,200 BCE.

Egyptian Juglet, ca. 1750–1640 B.C. (Photo: Met Museum, Rogers Fund and Edward S. Harkness Gift, 1922. (CC0 1.0))

Multiple shades of blue–including ultramarine and cobalt blue– were being used by artists centuries before the era of the Seven Satrapies. By the time Gollaïr and Solarch show up around 142 anno lucidonius, they have a full complement of blues from which to choose.

Small sculpture of a young blue dragon
“Blue Morpho,” Windstone Editions

ANY way,  this entry into RLF canon is an article from My Modern Met–the website for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. There they talk about blue’s place in art history (which is to say, human history). It’s brief, and beautiful.

classic Vermeer portrait of a young woman wearing a blue headscarf
Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring