This article is about the color. For other uses, see .
"000000" redirects here. For the number, see .
Black is the darkest color, the result of the absence or complete of . It is an achromatic color, literally a color without , like (its ) and (its ). It is often used or to represent darkness, while represents light.
Black is the most common color used for printing books, newspapers and documents, because it has the highest contrast with white paper and is the easiest to read. For the same reason, black text on a white screen is the most common format used on computer screens. In it is the , , and , in order to help produce the darkest shades.
Black and white have often been used to describe opposites; particularly truth and ignorance, good and evil, the versus . Since the , black has been the symbolic color of solemnity and authority, and for this reason is still commonly worn by judges and magistrates.
Black was one of the first colors used by artists in cave paintings. In the 14th century, it began to be worn by royalty, the clergy, judges and government officials in much of Europe. It became the color worn by English romantic poets, businessmen and statesmen in the 19th century, and a high fashion color in the 20th century.
In the , it became the color of mourning, and over the centuries it was frequently associated with , evil, witches and magic. According to surveys in Europe and North America, it is the color most commonly associated with mourning, the end, secrets, magic, force, violence, evil, and elegance.
The word black comes from blæc ("black, dark", also, "ink"), from blakkaz ("burned"), from bhleg- ("to burn, gleam, shine, flash"), from base bhel- ("to shine"), related to blak ("ink"), blach ("black"), blakkr ("dark"), blaken ("to burn"), and bläck ("ink"). More distant cognates include flagrare ("to blaze, glow, burn"), and phlegein ("to burn, scorch").
The Ancient Greeks sometimes used the same word to name different colors, if they had the same intensity. Kuanos' could mean both dark blue and black.
The Ancient Romans had two words for black: ater was a flat, dull black, while niger was a brilliant, saturated black. Ater has vanished from the vocabulary, but niger was the source of the country name Nigeria the English word Negro and the word for "black" in most modern (: noir; : negro; : nero ).
also had two words for black: swartz for dull black and blach for a luminous black. These are parallelled in by the terms swart for dull black and blaek for luminous black. Swart still survives as the word swarthy, while blaek became the modern English black.
In heraldry, the word used for the black color is , named for the black fur of the , an animal.
History and art
Black was one of the first colors used in art. The in France contains drawings of bulls and other animals drawn by artists between 18,000 and 17,000 years ago. They began by using charcoal, and then made more vivid black pigments by burning bones or grinding a powder of .
For the ancient Egyptians, black had positive associations; being the color of fertility and the rich black soil flooded by the Nile. It was the color of , the god of the underworld, who took the form of a black , and offered protection against evil to the dead.
For the ancient Greeks, black was also the color of the underworld, separated from the world of the living by the river , whose water was black. Those who had committed the worst sins were sent to , the deepest and darkest level. In the center was the palace of , the king of the underworld, where he was seated upon a black throne.
Black was one of the most important colors used by ancient Greek artists. In the 6th century BC, they began making and later , using a highly original technique. In black-figure pottery, the artist would paint figures with a glossy clay on a red clay pot. When the pot was fired, the figures painted with the slip would turn black, against a red background. Later they reversed the process, painting the spaces between the figures with slip. This created magnificent red figures against a glossy black background.
In the social hierarchy of , purple was the color reserved for the Emperor; red was the color worn by soldiers (red cloaks for the officers, red tunics for the soldiers); white the color worn by the priests, and black was worn by craftsmen and artisans. The black they wore was not deep and rich; the vegetable dyes used to make black were not solid or lasting, so the blacks often turned out faded gray or brown.
In , the word for black, ater and to darken, atere, were associated with cruelty, brutality and evil. They were the root of the English words "atrocious" and "atrocity".
Black was also the Roman color of death and mourning. In the 2nd century BC Roman magistrates began to wear a dark toga, called a toga pulla, to funeral ceremonies. Later, under the Empire, the family of the deceased also wore dark colors for a long period; then, after a banquet to mark the end of mourning, exchanged the black for a white toga. In Roman poetry, death was called the hora nigra, the black hour.
The German and Scandinavian peoples worshipped their own goddess of the night, , who crossed the sky in a chariot drawn by a black horse. They also feared , the goddess of the kingdom of the dead, whose skin was black on one side and red on the other. They also held sacred the . They believed that , the king of the Nordic pantheon, had two black ravens, Huginn and Muninn, who served as his agents, traveling the world for him, watching and listening.
paintings of bulls in the , more than 17,000 years old
with black background. Portrait of , about 470–480 BC. (The Louvre)
In the early Middle Ages, black was commonly associated with darkness and evil. In Medieval paintings, the devil was usually depicted as having human form, but with wings and black skin or hair.
In the 12th and 13th centuries
In fashion, black did not have the prestige of red, the color of the nobility. It was worn by monks as a sign of humility and penitence. In the 12th century a famous theological dispute broke out between the monks, who wore white, and the Benedictines, who wore black. A Benedictine abbot, Pierre the Venerable, accused the Cistercians of excessive pride in wearing white instead of black. Saint , the founder of the Cistercians responded that black was the color of the devil, hell, "of death and sin," while white represented "purity, innocence and all the virtues".
Black symbolized both power and secrecy in the medieval world. The emblem of the Holy Roman Empire of Germany was a black eagle. The in the poetry of the Middle Ages was an enigmatic figure, hiding his identity, usually wrapped in secrecy.
Black , invented in Ancient China and India, was traditionally used in the Middle Ages for writing, for the simple reason that black was the darkest color and therefore provided the greatest contrast with white paper or parchment, making it the easiest color to read. It became even more important in the 15th century, with the invention of . A new kind of ink, printer's ink, was created out of , and . The new ink made it possible to spread ideas to a mass audience through printed books, and to popularize art through black and white engravings and prints. Because of its contrast and clarity, black ink on white paper continued to be the standard for printing books, newspapers and documents; and for the same reason black text on a white background is the most common format used on computer screens.
The Italian painter showed expelling the , shown covered with bristly black hair (1308–11).
The 15th-century painting of the Last Judgement by (1395–1455) depicted hell with a vivid black devil devouring sinners.
Portrait of a monk of the (1484)
The black knight in a miniature painting of a medieval romance,Le Livre du cœur d'amour épris (about 1460)
(1451–1452). Black ink was used for printing books, because it provided the greatest contrast with the white paper and was the clearest and easiest color to read.
In the 14th and 15th centuries
In the early Middle Ages, princes, nobles and the wealthy usually wore bright colors, particularly scarlet cloaks from Italy. Black was rarely part of the wardrobe of a noble family. The one exception was the fur of the . This glossy black fur, from an animal of the family, was the finest and most expensive fur in Europe. It was imported from Russia and Poland and used to trim the robes and gowns of royalty.
In the 14th century, the status of black began to change. First, high-quality black dyes began to arrive on the market, allowing garments of a deep, rich black. Magistrates and government officials began to wear black robes, as a sign of the importance and seriousness of their positions. A third reason was the passage of in some parts of Europe which prohibited the wearing of costly clothes and certain colors by anyone except members of the nobility. The famous bright scarlet cloaks from and the peacock blue fabrics from were restricted to the nobility. The wealthy bankers and merchants of northern Italy responded by changing to black robes and gowns, made with the most expensive fabrics.
The change to the more austere but elegant black was quickly picked up by the kings and nobility. It began in northern Italy, where the Duke of Milan and the Count of Savoy and the rulers of Mantua, Ferrara, Rimini and Urbino began to dress in black. It then spread to France, led by , younger brother of King . It moved to England at the end of the reign of King (1377–1399), where all the court began to wear black. In 1419–20, black became the color of the powerful Duke of Burgundy, . It moved to Spain, where it became the color of the Spanish Habsburgs, of and of his son, (1527–1598). European rulers saw it as the color of power, dignity, humility and temperance. By the end of the 16th century, it was the color worn by almost all the monarchs of Europe and their courts.
In the 16th and 17th centuries
While black was the color worn by the Catholic rulers of Europe, it was also the emblematic color of the Protestant Reformation in Europe and the Puritans in England and America. , and other Protestant theologians denounced the richly colored and decorated interiors of Roman Catholic churches. They saw the color red, worn by the Pope and his Cardinals, as the color of luxury, sin, and human folly. In some northern European cities, mobs attacked churches and cathedrals, smashed the stained glass windows and defaced the statues and decoration. In Protestant doctrine, clothing was required to be sober, simple and discreet. Bright colors were banished and replaced by blacks, browns and grays; women and children were recommended to wear white.
In the Protestant Netherlands, used this sober new palette of blacks and browns to create portraits whose faces emerged from the shadows expressing the deepest human emotions. The Catholic painters of the Counter-Reformation, like , went in the opposite direction; they filled their paintings with bright and rich colors. The new churches of the were usually shining white inside and filled with statues, frescoes, marble, gold and colorful paintings, to appeal to the public. But European Catholics of all classes, like Protestants, eventually adopted a sober wardrobe that was mostly black, brown and gray.
Swiss theologian denounced the bright colors worn by Roman Catholic priests, and colorful decoration of churches.
, an American Puritan clergyman (1688).
American Pilgrims in New England going to church (painting by George Henry Boughton, 1867)
, Self-portrait (1659)
In the second part of the 17th century, Europe and America experienced an epidemic of fear of . People widely believed that the devil appeared at midnight in a ceremony called a or black sabbath, usually in the form of a black animal, often a goat, a dog, a wolf, a bear, a deer or a rooster, accompanied by their , black cats, serpents and other black creatures. This was the origin of the widespread superstition about black cats and other black animals. In medieval , in a ceremony called Kattenstoet, black cats were thrown from the belfry of the Cloth Hall of to ward off witchcraft.
Witch trials were common in both Europe and America during this period. During the notorious in New England in 1692–93, one of those on trial was accused of being able turn into a "black thing with a blue cap," and others of having familiars in the form of a black dog, a black cat and a black bird. Nineteen women and men were hanged as witches.
An English manual on witch-hunting (1647), showing a witch with her
have been accused for centuries of being the of witches or of bringing bad luck.
In the 18th and 19th centuries
In the 18th century, during the European , black receded as a fashion color. Paris became the fashion capital, and pastels, blues, greens, yellow and white became the colors of the nobility and upper classes. But after the , black again became the dominant color.
Black was the color of the , largely fueled by , and later by oil. Thanks to coal , the buildings of the large cities of Europe and America gradually turned . By 1846 the industrial area of the West Midlands of England was "commonly called 'the '”. and other writers described the dark streets and smoky skies of London, and they were vividly illustrated in the engravings of French artist .
A different kind of black was an important part of the in literature. Black was the color of , the dominant theme of romanticism. The novels of the period were filled with castles, ruins, dungeons, storms, and meetings at midnight. The leading poets of the movement were usually portrayed dressed in black, usually with a white shirt and open collar, and a scarf carelessly over their shoulder, and Lord Byron helped create the enduring stereotype of the romantic poet.
The invention of new, inexpensive synthetic black dyes and the industrialization of the textile industry meant that good-quality black clothes were available for the first time to the general population. In the 19th century gradually black became the most popular color of business dress of the upper and middle classes in England, the Continent, and America.
Black dominated literature and fashion in the 19th century, and played a large role in painting. made the color the subject of his most famous painting, Arrangement in grey and black number one (1871), better known as .
Some 19th-century French painters had a low opinion of black: "Reject black," said, "and that mix of black and white they call gray. Nothing is black, nothing is gray." But used blacks for their strength and dramatic effect. Manet's portrait of painter was a study in black which perfectly captured her spirit of independence. The black gave the painting power and immediacy; he even changed her eyes, which were green, to black to strengthen the effect. quoted the French impressionist telling him, "Manet is stronger than us all – he made light with black."
used luminous blacks, especially in his portraits. When someone told him that black was not a color, Renoir replied: "What makes you think that? Black is the queen of colors. I always detested Prussian blue. I tried to replace black with a mixture of red and blue, I tried using cobalt blue or ultramarine, but I always came back to ivory black."
used black lines to outline many of the objects in his paintings, such as the bed in the famous painting of his bedroom. making them stand apart. His painting of black crows over a cornfield, painted shortly before he died, was particularly agitated and haunting.
In the late 19th century, black also became the color of . (See the section .)
in the black and white costume of the romantic poet (1819).
A view of London by from 1872 showed how coal and the industrial revolution had blackened the buildings and air of the great cities of Europe.
Le Bal de l'Opera (1873) by , shows the dominance of black in Parisian evening dress.
Wheat Field with Crows (1890), one of the last paintings of , captures his agitated state of mind.
In the 20th and 21st centuries
In the 20th century, black was the color of Italian and German . (See the section .)
In art, black regained some of the territory that it had lost during the 19th century. The Russian painter , a member of the movement, created the in 1915, is widely considered the first purely abstract painting. He wrote, "The painted work is no longer simply the imitation of reality, but is this very reality ... It is not a demonstration of ability, but the materialization of an idea."
Black was also appreciated by . "When I didn't know what color to put down, I put down black," he said in 1945. "Black is a force: I used black as ballast to simplify the construction ... Since the impressionists it seems to have made continuous progress, taking a more and more important part in color orchestration, comparable to that of the double bass as a solo instrument."
In the 1950s, black came to be a symbol of individuality and intellectual and social rebellion, the color of those who didn't accept established norms and values. In Paris, it was worn by Left-Bank intellectuals and performers such as , and by some members of the in New York and San Francisco.Black leather jackets were worn by motorcycle gangs such as the and street gangs on the fringes of society in the United States. Black as a color of rebellion was celebrated in such films as , with . By the end of the 20th century, black was the emblematic color of the , and the . Goth fashion, which emerged in England in the 1980s, was inspired by mourning dress.
In men's fashion, black gradually ceded its dominance to navy blue, particularly in business suits. Black evening dress and formal dress in general were worn less and less. In 1960, was the last American President to be inaugurated wearing formal dress; President and all his successors were inaugurated wearing business suits.
Women's fashion was revolutionized and simplified in 1926 by the French designer , who published a drawing of a simple black dress in Vogue magazine. She famously said, "A woman needs just three things; a black dress, a black sweater, and, on her arm, a man she loves." Other designers contributed to the trend of the . The Italian designer said, "Black is the quintessence of simplicity and elegance," and French designer said, "black is the liaison which connects art and fashion. One of the most famous black dresses of the century was designed by and was worn by in the 1961 film .
The American in the 1950s was a struggle for the political equality of . It developed into the movement in the late 1960s and 1970s, and popularized the slogan "".
In the 1990s, the became the banner of several , groups. (See the section .)
The (1915) by is considered the first purely abstract painting (Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow).
The model Lady Amaranth. Goth fashion was inspired by British Victorian mourning costumes.
Variants of the flag are used by many groups that have adopted militant interpretations of . it is said to be the banner carried by and his soldiers.
In the , black is the absorption of all colors.
Black can be defined as the visual impression experienced when no reaches the eye. or that absorb light rather than reflect it back to the eye "look black". A black pigment can, however, result from a combination of several pigments that collectively absorb all colors. If appropriate proportions of three primary pigments are mixed, the result reflects so little light as to be called "black".
This provides two superficially opposite but actually complementary descriptions of black. Black is the absorption of all colors of light, or an exhaustive combination of multiple colors of pigment. See also .
In , a is a perfect absorber of light, but, by a thermodynamic rule, it is also the best emitter. Thus, the best radiative cooling, out of sunlight, is by using black paint, though it is important that it be black (a nearly perfect absorber) in the as well.
In elementary science, far light is called "" because, while itself unseen, it causes many minerals and other substances to .
On January 16, 2008, researchers from 's announced the creation of the then darkest material on the planet. The material, which reflected only 0.045 percent of light, was created from stood on end. This is 1/30 of the light reflected by the current standard for blackness, and one third the light reflected by the previous record holder for darkest substance. As of February 2016, the current darkest material known is claimed to be .
A material is said to be black if most incoming light is equally in the material. Light ( in the ) with the and , which causes the energy of the light to be converted into other forms of energy, usually heat. This means that black surfaces can act as thermal collectors, absorbing light and generating heat (see ).
Absorption of light is contrasted by , and , where the light is only redirected, causing objects to appear transparent, reflective or white respectively.
The earliest pigments used by Neolithic man were , and . The black lines of cave art were drawn with the tips of burnt torches made of a wood with .
Different charcoal pigments were made by burning different woods and animal products, each of which produced a different tone. The charcoal would be ground and then mixed with animal fat to make the pigment.
- Vine black was produced in Roman times by burning the cut branches of grapevines. It could also be produced by burning the remains of the crushed grapes, which were collected and dried in an oven. According to the historian , the deepness and richness of the black produced corresponded to the quality of the wine. The finest wines produced a black with a bluish tinge the color of .
The 15th-century painter Cennino Cennini described how this pigment was made during the Renaissance in his famous handbook for artists: "...there is a black which is made from the tendrils of vines. And these tendrils need to be burned. And when they have been burned, throw some water onto them and put them out and then mull them in the same way as the other black. And this is a lean and black pigment and is one of the perfect pigments that we use."
Cennini also noted that "There is which is made from burnt almond shells or peaches and this is a perfect, fine black." Similar fine blacks were made by burning the pits of the , or . The powdered charcoal was then mixed with or the yellow of an egg to make a paint.
Different civilizations burned different plants to produce their charcoal pigments. The of Alaska used wood charcoal mixed with the blood of to paint masks and wooden objects. The Polynesians burned to produce their pigment.
- was used as a pigment for painting and frescoes. as a dye for fabrics, and in some societies for making tattoos. The 15th century Florentine painter Cennino Cennini described how it was made during the Renaissance: "... take a lamp full of linseed oil and fill the lamp with the oil and light the lamp. Then place it, lit, under a thoroughly clean pan and make sure that the flame from the lamp is two or three fingers from the bottom of the pan. The smoke that comes off the flame will hit the bottom of the pan and gather, becoming thick. Wait a bit. take the pan and brush this pigment (that is, this smoke) onto paper or into a pot with something. And it is not necessary to mull or grind it because it is a very fine pigment. Re-fill the lamp with the oil and put it under the pan like this several times and, in this way, make as much of it as is necessary." This same pigment was used by Indian artists to paint the , and as dye in ancient Japan.
- , also known as , was originally produced by burning ivory and mixing the resulting charcoal powder with oil. The color is still made today, but ordinary animal bones are substituted for ivory.
- is a black pigment made of synthetic . It is commonly used in water-colors and oil painting. It takes its name from , the god of war and patron of iron.
Good-quality black were not known until the middle of the 14th century. The most common early dyes were made from bark, roots or fruits of different trees; usually the , , or certain trees. The blacks produced were often more gray, brown or bluish. The cloth had to be dyed several times to darken the color. One solution used by dyers was add to the dye some iron filings, rich in iron oxide, which gave a deeper black. Another was to first dye the fabric dark blue, and then to dye it black.
A much richer and deeper black dye was eventually found made from the or gall-nut. The gall-nut is a small round tumor which grows on oak and other varieties of trees. They range in size from 2–5 cm, and are caused by chemicals injected by the of certain kinds of in the family Cynipidae. The dye was very expensive; a great quantity of gall-nuts were needed for a very small amount of dye. The gall-nuts which made the best dye came from , eastern Europe, the near east and North Africa. Beginning in about the 14th century, dye from gall-nuts was used for clothes of the kings and princes of Europe.
Another important source of natural black dyes from the 17th century onwards was the , or , which also produced reddish and bluish dyes. It is a species of in the family, , that is native to southern and northern . The modern nation of grew from 17th century logwood logging camps.
Since the mid-19th century, synthetic black dyes have largely replaced natural dyes. One of the important synthetic blacks is , a mixture of synthetic black dyes (CI 50415, Solvent black 5) made by heating a mixture of , and aniline hydrochloride in the presence of a or . Its main industrial uses are as a colorant for lacquers and varnishes and in marker-pen inks.
The first known inks were made by the Chinese, and date back to the 23rd century B.C. They used natural plant dyes and minerals such as ground with water and applied with an . Early Chinese inks similar to the modern have been found dating to about 256 BC at the end of the . They were produced from , usually produced by burning pine wood, mixed with . To make ink from an inkstick, the stick is continuously ground against an with a small quantity of water to produce a dark liquid which is then applied with an . Artists and calligraphists could vary the thickness of the resulting ink by reducing or increasing the intensity and time of ink grinding. These inks produced the delicate shading and subtle or dramatic effects of .
(or Indian ink in ) is a black once widely used for writing and printing and now more commonly used for , especially when inking and . The technique of making it probably came from China. India ink has been in use in since at least the 4th century BC, where it was called masi. In India, the black color of the ink came from , , and other substances.
The Ancient Romans had a black writing ink they called librarium. Its name came from the Latin word atrare, which meant to make something black. (This was the same root as the English word atrocious.) It was usually made, like India ink, from , although one variety, called atramentum elephantinum, was made by burning the ivory of elephants.
Gall-nuts were also used for making fine black writing ink. (also known as iron gall nut ink or oak gall ink) was a purple-black or brown-black made from salts and from gall nut. It was the standard writing and drawing in Europe, from about the 12th century to the 19th century, and remained in use well into the 20th century.
Sticks of vine charcoal and compressed charcoal. Charcoal, along with red and yellow ochre, was one of the first pigments used by Paleolithic man.
A Chinese , in the form of lotus flowers and blossoms. Inksticks are used in Chinese calligraphy and brush painting.
Ivory black or , a natural black pigment made by burning animal bones.
The logwood tree from Central America produced dyes beginning in the 17th century. The nation of began as a British colony producing logwood.
The or gall-nut, a tumor growing on oak trees, was the main source of black dye and black writing ink from the 14th century until the 19th century.
The industrial production of , made by producing, collecting and refining , in 1906.
- A is a region of where gravity prevents anything, including , from escaping. The theory of predicts that a sufficiently compact will deform spacetime to form a black hole. Around a black hole there is a mathematically defined surface called an that marks the point of no return. It is called "black" because it absorbs all the light that hits the horizon, reflecting nothing, just like a perfect in .Black holes of stellar mass are expected to form when very massive stars collapse at the end of their life cycle. After a black hole has formed it can continue to grow by absorbing mass from its surroundings. By absorbing other stars and merging with other black holes, of millions of solar masses may form. There is general consensus that supermassive black holes exist in the centers of most . Although a black hole itself is black, infalling material forms an , which is one of brightest types of object in the universe.
- refers to the radiation coming from a body at a given temperature where all incoming energy (light) is converted to heat.
- Black sky refers to the appearance of space as one emerges from Earth's atmosphere.
Image of the NGC 406 galaxy from the Hubble Space Telescope
The night sky seen from Mars, with the two moons of Mars visible, taken by the NASA Spirit Rover.
Outside Earth's atmosphere, the sky is black day and night.
An illustration of (see below)
Simulated view of a black hole in front of the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Why the night sky and space are black – Olbers' paradox
The fact that is black is sometimes called . In theory, because the universe is full of stars, and is believed to be infinitely large, it would be expected that the light of an infinite number of stars would be enough to brilliantly light the whole universe all the time. However, the background color of outer space is black. This contradiction was first noted in 1823 by German astronomer , who posed the question of why the night sky was black.
The current accepted answer is that, although the universe is infinitely large, it is not infinitely old. It is thought to be about 13.8 billion years old, so we can only see objects as far away as the distance light can travel in 13.8 billion years. Light from stars farther away has not reached Earth, and cannot contribute to making the sky bright. Furthermore, as the universe is expanding, many stars are moving away from Earth. As they move, the wavelength of their light becomes longer, through the , and shifts toward red, or even becomes invisible. As a result of these two phenomena, there is not enough starlight to make space anything but black.
The daytime sky on Earth is blue because light from the Sun strikes molecules in Earth's atmosphere scattering light in all directions. Blue light is scattered more than other colors, and reaches the eye in greater quantities, making the daytime sky appear blue. This is known as .
The nighttime sky on Earth is black because the part of Earth experiencing night is facing away from the Sun, the light of the Sun is blocked by Earth itself, and there is no other bright nighttime source of light in the vicinity. Thus, there is not enough light to undergo Rayleigh scattering and make the sky blue. On the Moon, on the other hand, because there is no atmosphere to scatter the light, the sky is black both day and night. This phenomenon also holds true for other locations without an atmosphere.
American black bear (Ursus americanus) near Riding Mountain Park, Manitoba, Canada
The of Africa is one of the most venomous snakes, as well as the fastest-moving snake in the world. The only black part of the snake is the inside of the mouth, which it exposes in a threat display when alarmed.
The black widow spider, or , The females frequently eat their male partners after mating. The female's venom is at least three times more potent than that of the males, making a male's self-defense bite ineffective.
The American is one of the most intelligent of all animals.
In China, the color black is associated with water, one of the five fundamental elements believed to compose all things; and with winter, cold, and the direction north, usually symbolized by a black tortoise. It is also associated with disorder, including the positive disorder which leads to change and new life. When the first Emperor of China seized power from the , he changed the Imperial color from red to black, saying that black extinguished red. Only when the appeared in 206 BC was red restored as the imperial color.
The Chinese and Japanese character for black (kuro in Japanese), can, depending upon the context, also mean dark or evil.
In Japan, black is associated with mystery, the night, the unknown, the supernatural, the invisible and death. Combined with white, it can symbolize intuition.
In Japan in the 10th and 11th century, it was believed that wearing black could bring misfortune. It was worn at court by those who wanted to set themselves apart from the established powers or who had renounced material possessions.
In Japan black can also symbolize experience, as opposed to white, which symbolizes naiveté. The black belt in martial arts symbolizes experience, while a white belt is worn by novices. Japanese men traditionally wear a black kimono with some white decoration on their wedding day.
In Indonesia black is associated with depth, the subterranean world, demons, disaster, and the left hand. When black is combined with white, however, it symbolizes harmony and equilibrium.
The first Chinese Emperor, , made black his imperial color, saying that black extinguished red, the old dynastic color.
Japanese men traditionally wear a black kimono with some white decoration on their wedding day
Anarchism is a political philosophy, most popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which holds that governments and capitalism are harmful and undesirable. The was usually either a black flag or a black letter A. More recently it is usually represented with a bisected red and black flag, to emphasise the movement's socialist roots in the . Anarchism was most popular in Spain, France, Italy, Ukraine and Argentina. There were also small but influential movements in the United States and Russia. In the latter, the movement initially allied itself with the Bolsheviks.
The Black Army was a collection of anarchist military units which fought in the , sometimes on the side of the Bolshevik , and sometimes for the opposing . It was officially known as the , and it was under the command of the famous anarchist .
Fascism. The (: camicie nere, 'CCNN) were groups in during the period immediately following and until the end of . The Blackshirts were officially known as the Voluntary Militia for National Security (Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale, or MVSN).
Inspired by the black uniforms of the , Italy's elite storm troops of World War I, the Fascist Blackshirts were organized by as the military tool of his political movement. They used violence and intimidation against Mussolini's opponents. The emblem of the Italian fascists was a black flag with , an axe in a bundle of sticks, an ancient Roman symbol of authority. Mussolini came to power in 1922 through his with the blackshirts.
Black was also adopted by and the in Germany. Red, white and black were the colors of the flag of the German Empire from 1870 to 1918. In , Hitler explained that they were "revered colors expressive of our homage to the glorious past." Hitler also wrote that "the new flag ... should prove effective as a large poster" because "in hundreds of thousands of cases a really striking emblem may be the first cause of awakening interest in a movement." The black was meant to symbolize the race, which, according to the Nazis, "was always anti-Semitic and will always be anti-Semitic." Several designs by a number of different authors were considered, but the one adopted in the end was Hitler's personal design.Black became the color of the uniform of the , the Schutzstaffel or "defense corps", the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party, and was worn by SS officers from 1932 until the end of World War II.
The Nazis used a to symbolize anti-social elements. The symbol originates from , where every prisoner had to wear one of the on their jacket, the color of which categorized them according to "their kind." Many Black Triangle prisoners were either mentally disabled or mentally ill. The homeless were also included, as were alcoholics, the , the habitually "work-shy," prostitutes, draft dodgers and pacifists. More recently the black triangle has been adopted as a symbol in and by disabled activists.
Black shirts were also worn by the before World War II, and members of fascist movements in the Netherlands.
Patriotic Resistance. The , composed of volunteer German students and academics fighting against in 1813, could not afford to make special uniforms and therefore adopted black, as the only color that could be used to dye their civilian clothing without the original color showing. In 1815 the students began to carry a red, black and gold flag, which they believed (incorrectly) had been the colors of the Holy Roman Empire (the imperial flag had actually been gold and black). In 1848, this banner became the flag of the . In 1866, unified Germany under its rule, and imposed the red, white and black of its own flag, which remained the colors of the German flag until the end of the Second World War. In 1949 the Federal Republic of Germany returned to the original flag and colors of the students and professors of 1815, which is the flag of Germany today.
Islamism. The (راية السوداء rāyat al-sawdā', also known as راية العقاب rāyat al-'uqāb " of the " or simply as al-rāya "the banner") is the historical flag flown by in , an symbol in (heralding the advent of the ), and a symbol used in and .
Selected flags containing black
The banner of the (1400–1806) featured a black eagle, an old Roman emblem and a symbol of power. One head represented the church, the other the state.
(1918). The flag was a symbol of Estonian nationalism, when Estonia was part of the and . Black was said to symbolize the dark time of occupation, and white the bright future of independence.
MilitaryHussar from Husaren-Regiment Nr.5 (von Ruesch) in 1744 with the on the mirliton (ger. Flügelmütze).
Black has been a traditional color of cavalry and armoured or mechanized troops. German armoured troops () traditionally wore black uniforms, and even in others, a is common. In Finland, black is the symbolic color for both armoured troops and combat engineers, and military units of these specialities have black flags and unit insignia.
The and the color black is also a symbol of special forces in many countries. Soviet and Russian special police and wear a black beret. A black beret is also worn by military police in the Canadian, Czech, Croatian, Portuguese, Spanish and Serbian armies.
The silver-on-black skull and crossbones symbol or and a black uniform were used by and , the German and the Nazi , and U.S. (crossed missiles), and continues in use with the Estonian .
- In theology, black was the color of the universe before created light. In many religious cultures, from to to and , the world was created out of a primordial darkness. In the the light of faith and Christianity is often contrasted with the darkness of ignorance and paganism.
In Christianity, the is often called the "prince of darkness." The term was used in 's poem , published in 1667, referring to , who is viewed as the embodiment of evil. It is an English translation of the Latin phrase princeps tenebrarum, which occurs in the , written in the fourth century, in the 11th-century Rhythmus de die mortis by , and in a sermon by from the 12th century. The phrase also occurs in by (c. 1606), Act III, Scene IV, l. 14: 'The prince of darkness is a gentleman."
Priests and pastors of the , and churches commonly wear black, as do of the , who consider it the color of humility and penitence.
- In , black, along with green, plays an important symbolic role. It is the color of the , the banner that is said to have been carried by the soldiers of . It is also used as a symbol in (heralding the advent of the ), and the flag of followers of and .
- In , the goddess , goddess of time and change, is portrayed with black or dark blue skin. wearing a necklace adorned with severed heads and hands. Her name means "The black one". She destroys anger and passion according to Hindu mythology and her devotees are supposed to abstain from meat or intoxication. Kali does not eat meat, but it is the śāstra's injunction that those who are unable to give up meat-eating, they may sacrifice one goat, not cow, one small animal before the goddess Kali, on amāvāsya (new moon) day, night, not day, and they can eat it.
- The national team of New Zealand is called the , in reference to their black outfits, and the color is also shared by other New Zealand national teams such as the (cricket) and the (rugby league).
- traditionally wear all-black uniforms, however nowadays other uniform colors may also be worn.
- In , a black flag signals a driver to go into the pits.
- In baseball, "the black" refers to the , a blacked out area around the center-field bleachers, painted black to give hitters a decent background for pitched balls.
- A large number of teams have uniforms designed with black colors—many feeling the color sometimes imparts a psychological advantage in its wearers. Black is used by numerous professional and teams
Idioms and expressionsNamesake of the idiom "black sheep"
- In the United States, "" (the day after , the fourth Thursday in November) is traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. Many Americans are on holiday because of Thanksgiving, and many retailers open earlier and close later than normal, and offer special prices. The day's name originated in sometime before 1961, and originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive downtown pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on that day. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that "Black Friday" indicates the point in the year that retailers begin to turn a profit, or are "in the black", because of the large volume of sales on that day.
- "In the black" means profitable. Accountants originally used black ink in ledgers to indicate profit, and red ink to indicate a loss.
- also refers to an particularly disastrous day on financial markets. The first , September 24, 1869, was caused by the efforts of two speculators, and , to corner the gold market on the New York Gold Exchange.
- A is a list of undesirable persons or entities (to be placed on the list is to be "blacklisted").
- is a form of comedy dealing with morbid and serious topics. The expression is similar to or .
- A black mark against a person relates to something bad they have done.
- A black mood is a bad one (cf 's clinical depression, which he called "my black dog").
- is used to denote the trade of illegal goods, or alternatively the illegal trade of otherwise legal items at considerably higher prices, e.g. to evade .
- is the use of known falsehoods, partial truths, or masquerades in propaganda to confuse an opponent.
- is the act of threatening someone to do something that would hurt them in some way, such as by revealing sensitive information about them, in order to force the threatened party to fulfill certain demands. Ordinarily, such a threat is illegal.
- If the black eight-ball, in , is sunk before all others are out of play, the player loses.
- The of the family is the ne'er-do-well.
- To someone is to block their entry into a club or some such institution. In the traditional English , members vote on the admission of a candidate by secretly placing a white or black ball in a hat. If upon the completion of voting, there was even one black ball amongst the white, the candidate would be denied membership, and he would never know who had "blackballed" him.
- in the Western culture is known as "crimson tea" in Chinese and influenced languages ( , hóngchá; Japanese kōcha; Korean hongcha).
- "The black" is a term referring to a burned area on a capable of acting as a safety zone.
- Black coffee refers to coffee without sugar or cream.
Associations and symbolism
In Europe and America, black is the color most commonly associated with and bereavement. It is the color traditionally worn at funerals and memorial services. In some traditional societies, for example in Greece and Italy, some widows wear black for the rest of their lives. In contrast, across much of Africa and parts of Asia like Vietnam, white is a color of mourning and is worn during funerals.
In Victorian England, the colors and fabrics of mourning were specified in an unofficial : "non-reflective black paramatta and crape for the first year of deepest mourning, followed by nine months of dullish black silk, heavily trimmed with crape, and then three months when crape was discarded. Paramatta was a fabric of combined silk and wool or cotton; crape was a harsh black silk fabric with a crimped appearance produced by heat. Widows were allowed to change into the colors of half-mourning, such as gray and lavender, black and white, for the final six months."
A "black day" (or week or month) usually refers to tragic date. The marked days with white stones and nefasti days with black. The term is often used to remember massacres. Black months include the , when large numbers of Palestinians were killed, and in , the killing of members of the population by the government.
In the financial world, the term often refers to a dramatic drop in the stock market. For example, the , the on October 29, 1929, which marked the start of the , is nicknamed Black Tuesday, and was preceded by Black Thursday, a downturn on October 24 the previous week.
The dowager Electress of in mourning (1717)
Emperor and his sisters wearing mourning clothes due to their death (1834)
wore black in mourning for her husband Prince Albert (1899)
Darkness and evil
In western popular culture, black has long been associated with and . It is the traditional color of and .
In the , the last book in the of the Bible, the are supposed to announce the before the . The horseman representing famine rides a black horse.
The of literature and films, such as of the novel, dressed in black, and could only move at night. The in the 1939 film became the archetype of witches for generations of children. Whereas witches and sorcerers inspired real fear in the 17th century, in the 21st century children and adults dressed as witches for Halloween parties and parades.
Drawing of a witch from the illustrated book The Goblins' Christmas by Elizabeth Anderson (1908)
Clarinet-playing witch in a New Orleans Halloween parade
Power, authority, and solemnity
Black is frequently used as a color of power, law and authority. In many countries judges and magistrates wear black robes. That custom began in Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries. Jurists, magistrates and certain other court officials in France began to wear long black robes during the reign of (1285–1314), and in England from the time of (1271–1307). The custom spread to the cities of Italy at about the same time, between 1300 and 1320. The robes of judges resembled those worn by the clergy, and represented the law and authority of the King, while those of the clergy represented the law of God and authority of the church.
Until the 20th century most police uniforms were black, until they were largely replaced by a less menacing blue in France, the U.S. and other countries. In the United States, police cars are frequently . The units of the in Spain are known as ("blacks") after their uniform.
Black today is the most common color for limousines and the official cars of government officials.
Black evening dress is still worn at many solemn occasions or ceremonies, from graduations to formal balls. Graduation gowns are copied from the gowns worn by university professors in the Middle Ages, which in turn were copied from the robes worn by judges and priests, who often taught at the early universities. The hat worn by graduates is adapted from a square cap called a worn by Medieval professors and clerics
In the 19th and 20th centuries, many machines and devices, large and small, were painted black, to stress their functionality. These included telephones, sewing machines, steamships, railroad locomotives, and automobiles. The , the first mass-produced car, was available only in black from 1914 to 1926. Of means of transportation, only airplanes were rarely ever painted black.
Olivetti telephone from the 1940s
The first model (2000)
Black house paint is becoming more popular with reporting that the color, Tricorn Black, was the 6th most popular exterior house paint color in Canada and the 12th most popular paint in the United States in 2018.
Further information: , , , , and
- The term "black" is often used in the West to describe people whose skin is darker. In the United States, it is particularly used to describe . The terms for African Americans have changed over the years, as shown by the categories in the , taken every ten years.
- In the first U.S. Census, taken in 1790, just four categories were used: Free White males, Free White females, other free persons, and slaves.
- In the 1820 census the new category "colored" was added.
- In the 1850 census, slaves were listed by owner, and a B indicated black, while an M indicated "."
- In the 1890 census, the categories for race were white, black, mulatto, (a person one-quarter black); (a person one-eighth black), Chinese, Japanese, or American Indian.
- In the 1930 census, anyone with any black blood was supposed to be listed as "."
- In the 1970 census, the category "Negro or black" was used for the first time.
- In the 2000 and 2012 census, the category "Black or African-American" was used, defined as "a person having their origin in any of the racial groups in Africa." In the 2012 Census 12.1 percent of Americans identified themselves as Black or African-American.
Black is also commonly used as a racial description in the , since ethnicity was first measured in the 2001 census. The 2011 British census asked residents to describe themselves, and categories offered included Black, African, Caribbean, or Black British. Other possible categories were African British, African Scottish, Caribbean British and Caribbean Scottish. Of the total UK population in 2001, 1.0 percent identified themselves as Black Caribbean, 0.8 percent as Black African, and 0.2 percent as Black (others).
In , census respondents can identify themselves as Black. In the 2006 census, 2.5 percent of the population identified themselves as black.
In , the term black is not used in the census. In the 2006 census, 2.3 percent of Australians identified themselves as and/or Islanders.
In , the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) asks people to identify themselves as branco (white), pardo (brown), preto (black), or amarelo (yellow). In 2008 6.8 percent of the population identified themselves as "preto".
Black and white
- Black and white have often been used to describe opposites; particularly light and darkness and good and evil. In , the usually represented virtue, the something mysterious and sinister. In American , the hero often wore a white hat, the villain a black hat.
- In the original game of invented in or , the colors of the two sides were varied; a 12th-century Iranian chess set in the , has red and green pieces. But when the game was imported into Europe, the colors, corresponding to European culture, usually became black and white.
- Studies have shown that something printed in black letters on white has more authority with readers than any other color of printing.
- In philosophy and arguments, the issue is often described as , meaning that the issue at hand is (having two clear, opposing sides with no middle ground).
Heroes in American , like the , traditionally wore a white hat, while the villains wore black hats.
Black chambers and black ops
Black is commonly associated with .
- The was a term given to an office which secretly opened and read diplomatic mail and broke codes. Queen had such an office, headed by her Secretary, Sir , which successfully broke the Spanish codes and broke up several plots against the Queen. In France a cabinet noir was established inside the French post office by to open diplomatic mail. It was closed during the but re-opened under . The and had similar black chambers.
- The United States created a secret peacetime , called the Cipher Bureau, in 1919. It was funded by the and Army and disguised as a commercial company in New York. It successfully broke a number of diplomatic codes, including the code of the Japanese government. It was closed down in 1929 after the State Department withdrew funding, when the new Secretary of State, , stated that "Gentlemen do not read each other's mail." The Cipher Bureau was the ancestor of the U.S. .
- A black project is a secret military project, such as during World War II, or a secret counter-narcotics or police .
- are covert operations carried out by a government, government agency or military.
Elegance – black and fashion
Black is the color most commonly associated with elegance in Europe and the United States, followed by silver, gold, and white.
Black first became a fashionable color for men in Europe in the 17th century, in the courts of Italy and Spain. (See history above.) In the 19th century, it was the fashion for men both in business and for evening wear, in the form of a black coat whose tails came down the knees. In the evening it was the custom of the men to leave the women after dinner to go to a special smoking room to enjoy cigars or cigarettes. This meant that their tailcoats eventually smelled of tobacco. According to the legend, in 1865 , then the Prince of Wales, had his tailor make a special short . The smoking jacket then evolved into the dinner jacket. Again according to legend, the first Americans to wear the jacket were members of the Tuxedo Club in New York State. Thereafter the jacket became known as a in the U.S. The term "smoking" is still used today in Russia and other countries. The tuxedo was always black until the 1930s, when the began to wear a tuxedo that was a very dark midnight blue. He did so because a black tuxedo looked greenish in artificial light, while a dark blue tuxedo looked blacker than black itself.
For women's fashion, the defining moment was the invention of the by in 1926. (See history.) Thereafter, a long black gown was used for formal occasions, while the simple black dress could be used for everything else. The designer , explaining why black was so popular, said: "Black is the color that goes with everything. If you're wearing black, you're on sure ground." Skirts have gone up and down and fashions have changed, but the black dress has not lost its position as the essential element of a woman's wardrobe. The fashion designer said, "elegance is a combination of distinction, naturalness, care and simplicity," and black exemplified elegance.
The expression "X is the new black" is a reference to the latest trend or fad that is considered a wardrobe basic for the duration of the trend, on the basis that black is always fashionable. The phrase has taken on a life of its own and has become a .
Many performers of both popular and , including French singers and , and violinist have traditionally worn black on stage during performances. A black costume was usually chosen as part of their image or stage persona, or because it did not distract from the music, or sometimes for a political reason. Country-western singer always wore black on stage. In 1971, Cash wrote the song "" to explain why he dressed in that color: "We're doing mighty fine I do suppose / In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes / But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back / Up front there ought to be a man in black."
The was the first to wear midnight blue rather than black evening dress, which looked blacker than black in artificial light.
A "simple black dress" from 1964.
French singer always wore black on stage.
Country-western singer Johnny Cash called himself "the man in black." Image of his performance in , Northern Germany, in September 1972.
American violinist wears black on stage.
Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen at the Fashion Rio Inverno 2006.
Model at New York Fashion Week, 2006
Notes and citations
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- ^ Heller, Eva, Psychologie de la couleur – effets et symboliques (2009), p. 126
- Eva Heller (2000), Psychologie de la couleur – effets et symboliques, pp. 105–27.
- ^ Michel Pastoureau, Noir – Histoire d'une couleur, p. 34.
- "African nation, named for the river Niger, mentioned by that name 1520s (Leo Africanus), probably an alteration (by influence of Latin niger "black") of a local Tuareg name, egereou n-igereouen, from egereou "big river, sea" + n-igereouen, plural of that word. Translated in Arabic as nahr al-anhur "river of rivers." (Online Etymological Dictionary)
- Friar, Stephen, ed. (1987). "A New Dictionary of Heraldry". London: . pp. 294, 343. . Missing or empty |url= ()
- Stefano Zuffi, Color in Art, p. 270.
- Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, New York: World Publishing Company (1964).
- Michel Pastoureau, Noir – Histoire d'une couleur, pp. 34–45.
- Stefano Zuffi, Color in Art, p. 272.
- Michel Pastoureau, Noir – Histoire d'une couleur, p. 80.
- Michel Pastoureau, Noir – Histoire d'une couleur, pp. 86–90.
- Michel Pastoureau, Noir – HIstoire d'une couleur, pp. 93–130.
- Michel Pastoureau, Noir – Histoire d'une couleur, pp. 121–25.
- Michel Pastoureau, Noir – Histoire d'une couleur, pp. 146–47.
- Michel Pastoureau, Noir – Histoire d'une couleur, pp. 152–53.
- Michel Pastoureau, Noir – Histoire d'une couleur, pp. 150–51
- Stefano Zuffi, Color in Art, p. 279.
- Linder, Prof. . Retrieved December 30, 2016.
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- Steffano Zuffi, Color in Art, p. 302.
- Jack Flam, Matisse on Art, p. 175.
- Eva Heller, Psychologie de la couleur – effets et symboliques, p. 107.
- Cited in Stefano Zuffi, Color in Art, p. 306.
- Jack Flam (1995), Matisse on Art, p. 166.
- ^ Eva Heller, Psychologie de la Couleur – effets et symboliques, p. 120.
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- ^ Lara Broecke, Cennino Cennini's Il Libro dell'Arte: a New English Translation and Commentary with Italian Transcription, Archetype 2015, p. 60.
- Cranshaw, Whitney (2004). Garden Insects of North America. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. .
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- Patricia Jalland, Death in the Victorian Family, p. 300.
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- Gottsegen, Mark (2006). The Painter's Handbook: A Complete Reference. New York: Watson-Guptill Publications. .
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- Jalland, Patricia (2000). Death in the Victorian Family. Oxford University Press. .
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