Seeing Red

Diane Helentjaris
6 min readSep 30, 2023

Embroiders across the centuries and around the world make a statement with red

Roma Kaiuk on Unsplash

“Color is the place where our brains and the universe come together.” Paul Cézanne

Red. My favorite color. As a tot I wanted the red balloon, the red lollipop. My dress in kindergarten was red with white polka dots. Red adds the zing to many of the photographs I snap nowadays.

Red. The color of love, passion, power, blood…and guts. As languages evolve, colors are not all given names at the same time. In what scientists call the hierarchy of colors, red is the first color given a name across many cultures. First, people created terms for lightness and darkness. Next came a name for red, a color on the light wave spectrum to which the human eye is particularly sensitive. Recognizing red and communicating it to others can have life-altering results — for instance, in following the blood trail of an injured game animal. Other color names followed red.

19th century embroidery silk on linen tabby ground from Crete, Greece, Cleveland Museum of Art. Photo compliments of Wikimedia Commons.

Last of the main colors to be named was blue, a lovely color but not of much real importance to know. Even Homer’s Iliad dates from a time when, according to some linguists, blue went anonymously among the Greeks. The Mediterranean Sea was described as “wine…



Diane Helentjaris

Writer with a love of the overlooked. Author of the historical fiction novel The Indenture of Ivy O’Neill,