By Amy Butler Greenfield
Within the 16th century, one of many world's most beneficial commodities used to be cochineal, a mythical crimson dye precious by means of the traditional Mexicans and bought within the nice Aztec marketplaces, the place it attracted the eye of the Spanish conquistadors. Shipped to Europe, the dye created a sensation, generating the brightest, most powerful crimson the area had ever obvious. quickly Spain's cochineal monopoly was once worthy a fortune. because the English, French, Dutch, and different Europeans joined the chase for cochineal -- a chase that lasted for greater than 3 centuries -- a story of pirates, explorers, alchemists, scientists, and spies unfolds. an ideal crimson inspires with sort and verve this historical past of a grand obsession, of intrigue, empire, and experience in pursuit of the main fascinating colour on the earth.
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Additional info for A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire
How sad will my spirit be till Cortés has given back all the gold which he has taken,” one conquistador wrote. Ever an astute judge of events, Cortés was acutely aware of how tenuous his situation was. His claim to authority, though officially based on his tricky legal maneuvers in Veracruz, ultimately depended on the support of his men; but his men, deprived of any real reward for their conquest, were growing more angry and restless by the day. Desperate to prevent a mutiny, he granted them something they wanted almost as much as gold and treasure: rights to the labor and tribute of the people they had conquered.
But for Renaissance merchants and artists, the scarlet turban was an effective form of self-advertisement—exotic proof of success in international markets and of their access to the most coveted red dyes. Deep, rich reds were also popular among peasants and small farmers, but both legal strictures and the prohibitive cost ensured that they rarely had a chance to wear them. At best, peasants could afford only the cheaper orange-red and russet dyes. Even these, if too bright, could bring them into conflict with sumptuary laws and local customs.
Always shorthanded, the young ruler worried incessantly about finding the money to fight the battles that would save his empire and, as he saw it, Christendom itself. ” Desperate for money, he raised taxes wherever he could, yet there was a limit to how much he could ask from his subjects without triggering yet another revolt. Increasing his returns from the Indies seemed a safer course, and it was for this reason that he became interested in cochineal. No one knows how news of a new red dyestuff first reached the emperor.
A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire by Amy Butler Greenfield