Wild Red

Study Exhibition

29 Oct 23 — 28 Apr 24

Purple colored fabrics and empty shells of the blunt spiny snail (Hexaplex trunculus) from the Mediterranean Sea. Photo: Museum Wiesbaden ⁄ Bernd Fickert

Wild red — that's purple, scarlet and carmine. These are the melodious names of once prestigious red dyes and hues of animal origin. In ancient times, the purple of Mediterranean snails was a symbol of secular and ecclesiastical power. The name carmine refers to the cochineal introduced from the American continent and its dye. In the 16th century, it displaced the prestigious scarlet, a dye derived from Kermes scale insects found in Europe and Asia. Meanwhile, synthetic agents have long dominated the dye market.

The exhibition takes visitors on a journey through the history of red dyes of animal origin, including contemporary sites for breeding lice for natural dyes and the rediscovery of purple dyeing in Europe.

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