green secrets

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, German Poet, Novelist, Dramatist, Humanist, Scientist, Theorist and Painter, 1749-1831

Green was once a secret color owned and used only by royalty in China. Its name was “mi se” and it meant “mysterious color”. People speculated as to its actual color but no one knew quite what it looked like. Archaeologists over the years would sometimes come upon a green type of bowl but it wasn’t until 1987 when a tower collapsed in Xi’an and a secret room revealed actual pieces of this rare porcelain. Here was the color, Celadon. It was a soft, gray green that invoked tranquility and nature. 

It became wildly popular in the early 1600s in Paris where everyone suddenly appeared dressed in that color. Chinoiserie, a European interpretation of Chinese motifs, became a raging trend with birds, flowers and trees on green textiles, objects and wallpaper.
The chemist, Carl Wilhelm Scheele unwittingly made an amazing green while trying to make a yellow paint in 1770. He manufactured Scheele Green and it was used in paint and wallpapers. He did have second thoughts that appeared in a letter to a fellow scientist because it contained arsenic but went ahead with its production anyway. Green arsenic paint and paper was used everywhere unknowingly poisoning people in their homes. In 1880, almost a hundred years later, it was finally revealed as the source for so many deaths.

So one secret green color used only for royalty found its way to the masses and another green with a secret became a death sentence for others. Here is intrigue and mystery once again in the story of color.