Purple mountains majesty

Although orange is quite eccentric, purple presents itself as the strangest color in the group — strangest meaning the most biologically unnatural. Purple sparingly appears in the natural environment, generally appearing as flower petals, like lilacs and lilies (Color 218). Its greatest impact lies in objects and ideas created by humans, and it manifests greatly in two categories: royalty and mysticism.

Being a blend of red and blue, the two ends of the emotional spectrum, purple has a dynamic effect. If used in large areas, the color can disturb the focus of the eye, but it ironically has a very aesthetic appeal. Monarchs and kings added splashes of purple to their material items to announce their wealth to others.

Perhaps their choice of color relates back to the difficulty of producing the purple. Phoenician Tyrian purple, the color most prized in the ancient world, was extricated from the Purpura mollusk (hence its name). Its extinction date is unknown, but the species has been lost to mankind for centuries now.

Aside from that creature, no raw products naturally produce the color. Thus, purple was not available to the people until chemical synthesis found the correct formula (Color 218).

The rarity of the purple product automatically leant itself to the upper class, giving its distinguishing nature as a part of royalty. In the 10th century, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII’s surname, Porphyrogenitus, translates to “born to the people.” Sons born to a reigning king who would inherit the throne were announced as heirs by attachment to the color purple.

Heraldry tradition speaks of purple, or “murrey,” as representing royalty or rank. Even today, in marketing efforts, advertisements or labels with deep purple backgrounds tend to be perceived as a higher-quality product. This is especially true in European markets or for people with European backgrounds due to their past histories of monarchies.

A light tint of purple falls into the spirituality category, popularly seen on banners portraying the dove in Christian churches. However, mystics have passed on aural healing techniques to present-day natural healers, and violet and lavender are used for a soothing effect on mental concentration (Birren 46).

This has been translated into modern American culture through its association with New Age philosophies, such as Eastern massage techniques, herbal remedies, yoga and pilates — perhaps because the ultimate goal of these activities is to soothe the mind, body and spirit with continued practice (Eiseman 48).

In its most extreme cases, the darkest hues evoke a deep melancholy, a level of depression and desperation way beyond the simple sadness of having the “blues” on a lonely evening (Birren 143).

The entrance of the Brown Derby restaurant, which was originally built by movie producer Cecil B. DeMille, is seen on Aug. 27, 2005 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)