Ryan Shuflin wrote:In a introductory art class, one might learn that the basic colors are Red, Orange, Blue, Purple, Yellow and Green. Along with black and white these are all represented in the basic tinctures. Why then is orange left out? For example, in the coat of arms of Orange, France the oranges are depicted Or, not proper.
Modern color theory hadn't been invented at the time heraldry was developing. It started developing only in the late 15th century and didn't really catch on widely until the late 17th/early 18th after Newton discovered the principle of the color spectrum. So no herald circa 1400 would have thought in terms of three primary and three secondary colors. (In the Middle Ages, artists usually depicted the rainbow as simply red, yellow, and green.)
In fact, I think there's good reason to believe that the concept of "orange" as a separate color didn't exist when heraldry was developing. Certainly the word "orange" wasn't available to describe it. "Orange" as the name of a color in English dates only to about 1600, according to the OED; before that, we had to make do with "yellow-red" (or, in Anglo-Saxon, geoluhread
). If you look in a Latin-English dictionary, the closest Latin equivalent for this color isfulvus
, which can mean anything from brownish orange to reddish brown.
That would suggest that people in northwestern Europe circa 1200-1400, when heraldry was evolving, simply didn't think of orange as one of the main colors in its own right; they thought of it more or less the same way we think of blue-green.
(By the way, before someone asks what color people used to describe the fruit we know as an "orange," the answer is that in northern Europe at least, they generally didn't call it anything, oranges only began to be imported to that area in the late 1400s. Then they called a pomme d'orange
or "apple orange" or "orange apple," from the Spanish or Italian adaptations of the Arabic word naranj
It's also interesting that the symbolic colors used by various cultures--from the various American Indian peoples to the liturgical colors of the Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran churches--don't include orange. The Indian tribes assigned colors to the various points of the compass and ascribed symbolic meanings to them; different tribes assigned different colors, but none of them included orange (or purple, for that matter). The range of choices was limited to red, white, yellow, blue, black, and green--the same as the core heraldic palette that was developed on the other side of the Atlantic.
Add to that the fact that our English expressions "redhead," "red hen," and "red fox" all refer to a color that most people today would describe as orange.