Yellow for Judas

Joannes Richter Medieval artists applied religious colors coding for their artwork, which has been wellknown to all well-educated people and the majority of illiterate citizens. In modern times these symbols have been lost and the coding system is misunderstood by modern scholars. Obviously most of the medieval symbolism have been at the end of the Middle Age..

Fig. 1: Kiss of Judas (Rouen - detail) Art critics consider medieval artists as simple-minded, archaic persons, who were merely interested in decorating and illustrating biblical texts. The website Medieval Art expresses the general idea by explaining “The kiss of Judas” in the Rouen Book of Hours by the following quotation: “Like many modern artists, medieval painters were more interested in exploring the meaning of their subject than in painting naturalistic images. In this illuminated manuscript, the prime purpose of the artwork is to decorate; its secondary purpose is to illustrate the text. In the illustration, the figures are flat, and are pictured against a generalized background. The purely decorative panel to the left is visually more important than the representation of the passage. The passage itself is concerned with the betrayal of Jesus by Judas as Judas kisses Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.” I think this explanation is rather simplifying. Let us examine the painting and check this statement for unproven contents. The decorations at the left side contain • • blue flowers with green leafs at the upper left image and red flowers with green leafs at the lower left

of an image titled “The Kiss of Judas” (exhibited at Rouen).

1 Yellow for Judas
The Kiss of Judas (Rouen)

Fig. 2: The Kiss of Judas (Rouen)

The central left image does contain blue flowers with green leafs at a red background. The decorated letters to the right side of the central image displaying the kiss of Judas contains decorated initials as capital letters, which are alternating blue and red colors, starting with the red text “Ad unam”, to be followed by a blue capital letter. These alternating initial letters may be found in the majority of the medieval Bibles. The frequent use of these colors red and blue refers to the idea to apply colors as religious symbols. 2

Now let us investigate the central painting.

Fig. 3: Kiss of Judas (Rouen - detail) Rouen Book of Hours. The Kiss of Judas. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. Judas is wearing a yellowish white garment, whereas is Jesus is wearing a purple robe. Next to Jesus a lamenting disciple is dressed in red and blue. This disciple probably represents Peter, who just may have cut off an ear from the laid down victim at his feet. The central group is surrounded by soldiers in yellowish, golden armaments. In observing this painting even illiterate, medieval persons were enabled to identify the symbolism for the colored elements. The central position of Jesus Christ in a divine purple robe has been included between a betrayer Judas in a light yellow robe and a saint Peter dressed in red & blue. The smiling soldiers in yellowish armaments may be considered as hostile elements accompanying the evil disciple Judas. From this painting we may derive the thesis of yellow as a symbolic color for “evil” in contrast to purple, red and blue as the symbols for “good”. To prove the thesis “yellow for Judas” we may investigate some other medieval paintings. In the web we will easily find a great number of images displaying “the Kiss of Judas”.


The Kiss of Judas by Giotto

Fig. 4: the Kiss of Judas by Giotto Giotto, Kiss of Judas Scrovegni (Arena) Chapel, near Padua Christus Rex et Redemptor Mundi The painting created by Giotto clearly demonstrates the evil force by covering the slightly visible ref & blue colors of Jesus' garments by an overwhelming amount of devilish yellow. At the left side of the painting Peter may be observed cutting a man's ear. St. Peter is wearing a light-blue and orange garment. At the right side another man in a purple robe with golden “clavi”-like borders observes the betrayal. He may be pointing to Jesus to confirm the betrayal, but the real symbolism may probably be read from the color of his garments identifying him as a “good” man wearing a purple robe. Please note the sacred and radiant nimbus circle at Jesus' and Peter's heads in the same yellow color as Judas' robe. The nimbus are radiant golden, which of course as a precious metal had to be painted yellowish in a realistic way. Even if gold may have been considered as a betrayer's element it must also have been a symbol for the most precious elements. The confusion in applying yellow for precious good symbolism and for evil will often disturb our decisions in interpreting medieval paintings. 4

The Kiss of Judas by Anthony van Dyck
Another painting demonstrating the betrayal of Christ by Anthony van Dyck also displays a Judas in yellow kissing Jesus in blue garments. Of course Jesus wears a red robe at his left hand to complete the symbolic order in which either purple or red and blue-combinations are allowed. In the foreground scene St. Peter is seen wearing a blue robe and cutting another man's ear.

Fig. 5: The betrayal of Christ by Anthony van Dyck The Betrayal of Christ Anthony Van Dyck 1620-1622


The Kiss of Judas
The next painting reveals a yellow robe for Judas, who may have managed to hide himself under the purple robe of Jesus Christ. At the left bottom Peter is seen dressed in red & blue, cutting another man's ear. All betrayers at the painting are wearing some yellow dresses (like garments or caps).

Fig. 6: The Kiss of Judas


The Kiss of Judas at the Assisi Church Fresco
Jesus is wearing a red and purple-blue robe whereas Judas is wearing green and orange.

Fig. 7: The Kiss of Judas at the Assisi Church Fresco Judas Betraying Jesus Assisi Church Fresco


The Kiss of Judas, Jean Bourdichon (1500)
Jesus' robe may be identified as purple. Peter in blue and rose is seen to put away his sword after cutting a man's ear. The ear is being healed by Jesus. Judas may wear an orange & blueish robe.

Fig. 8: The Kiss of Judas, Jean Bourdichon (1500)


The kiss of Judas (1336)
Of course Jesus is wearing the divine purple robe with blue garment and red nimbus, whereas Judas is dressed in green and yellow.

Fig. 9: The kiss of Judas (1336)

miniature from “Speculum Humanae Salvationis”


The Kiss of Judas by Caravaggio (1602)

Fig. 10: The Kiss of Judas by Caravaggio (1602) BETRAYED WITH A KISS Matthew 26:47-56 ; Mark 14:43-52 Luke 22:47-53 ; John 18:1-27 Kiss of Judas Caravaggio 1602 In The Kiss of Judas by Caravaggio (1602) Jesus wears a red-purple robe. Judas is wearing a dark yellow dress.


The Kiss of Judas by Cornelis Engebrechtsz (1500)
Cornelis Engebrechtsz applies a clear betrayal's color yellow (and a white under robe) for Judas. Jesus Christ and saint Peter are wearing blue robes.

Fig. 11: The Kiss of Judas by Cornelis Engebrechtsz (1500)


Yellow and Green in Alchemy Yellow has been identified as the color for depictions of the traitor Judas. Green as the symbolic color of the medieval enemy Islam has been considered by Christians as an evil color as well. Christians considered black, green and yellow as evil symbols. The following painting1 depicts an androgynous personification of evil nature: the antichrist Lucifer (left) and a woman (Lucifer's mother?), colored in green, black, yellow and blue.

Fig. 12: Androgynous Lucifer and his mother (?)


Book of Holy Trinity (published in the 15th century)


2 Purple
Purple is a reddish blue or blueish red color with some strange and unexplainable properties. Most people will define the spectral location somewhere between violet and magenta. Purple however is an extra-spectral color. A great number of nobles and royals have been described wearing purple robes.

Paars in Dutch, Perse in English
In Dutch the name “paars” for purple may refer to old French “pers” and the Latin word “persum” defining a dark blue tissue. The English and French words Perse2 have been applied to identify dark blue tissue around 1260.

Peers in English
Other etymological roots refer to the words “pairs” and “peers” defining noble classes consisting of “equal” persons, frequently wearing purple robes. Basically however “pair” is a singular couple of two symmetrical and “equal” elements such as a “couple” consisting of a man and and a woman. In Frisian language the word “paars” has been spelled “paers”. The noble title “pair” (knight) is quite common in the 13 th century. A “pair of Flanders” has been listed as: JAN III, Lord of Petegem and Cysoing (1207-1240), pair of Flanders, knight... The 12 Pairs of France and the 12 Pairs of Flanders were also called Peers or Beers. Their number 12 may refer to the 12 apostles. They were considered as equal or in Latin “pares”. They accepted leadership from the king as a “primus inter pares”, but they merely allowed other pares as a court for law matters. The title pairs obviously started as the royal circle of 12 Pairs for Charlemagne3. This story of 12 pairs has been widely known in the Middle Age.

Perse = Peers in English?
The words “peers” and “perse” may have been used as trading terms for the royal and noble color as traded in the medieval Hanse4 . The medieval Hanseatic language provided an international linguistic code for international business at the coastline between Belgium's central trading location Brugge and Leningrad, now renamed to Saint Petersburg, Russia.

2 3

Medieval Latin word-list from British and Irish sources by James Houston Baxter,Charles Johnson,Phyllis Abrahams,British Academy

Latin: Carolus Magnus, meaning Charles the Great; 2 April 742 – 28 January 814
active between 1150 and 1650


Purple for Solomon
The Queen of Saba did send Solomon 6000 young children (boys and girls), who obviously were born at the same time (hour, month and year). They were all dressed in purple garments5. See the text in the quotation (in German language): „Die Königin, die sich eben vor dem Meere anbetend niedergeworfen hatte, zerriß im Schrecken ihr Gewand und schickte nach ihren Ratgebern. Diese antworteten: Wir kennen den König Salomo nicht und kümmern uns nicht um seine Regierung. Sie aber ließ alle Schiffe des Meeres ausrüsten mit Perlen und Edelsteinen als Gaben für Salomo und sandte ihm dazu 6000 Knaben und Mädchen, die in derselben Stunde desselben Tages , Monats und Jahrs geboren waren , alle von gleichem Wuchs und gleichem Aussehen, alle mit Purpurgewändern bekleidet.“ Of course Solomon may have identified the religious symbolism for the color purple from the divine commands in the book Exodus 6. As a bipolar symbol the color purple may indicate an androgynous symbolism in the Jewish religion, which has been reported in several Hebrew documents such as the Genesis legends in the Zohar and in medieval Genesis-versions.

Persian purple tissues
In the chapter “Aristoteles und der Wunderstein” the author Wilhelm Hertz7 describes the precious robes which were used to cover dead bodies of medieval and ancient royals. A great number of precious tissues must have been imported from the Persian province of Kerman8. The famous Marco Polo9 describes details for the production of these tissues at Kerman in Persia, where the woven tissues have been created by women and their daughters10. Some examples explain details: The corpse of Alexander the Great is said to have been covered by two marvelous silk towels 11. In the „Complaint of the 12 Pairs" he is buried under a purple12 tissue of silk from Almaria (532, 32). Following the embalming procedure he is to be enveloped in an “imperial” silk towel, which had been spend by queen Candace (543, .32; vgl. 382, 28) and reveals decorations by precious stones symbolizing the stars in the skies: “clamidem imperialem aurotextilem, stellatam ornatamque ex pretiosis lapidibus”13. Firdusi however reports that Alexander's corpse has been enveloped in Chinese golden brokade (Mohl. Livre des Rois V. 253. 255).


source in German: "Gesammelte abhandlungen von Wilhelm Hertz" Exodus 25:15
"Gesammelte abhandlungen von Wilhelm Hertz", 1874, pag. 74


lat. Carmania. Vgl. P. Meyer, Romania XIV, 15.


Marco Polo I, 17, Yule I, 92 s. Yule, ib. I, 96 ff. 11 Michelant, 524, 3-3, quoted by Wilhelm Hertz, page 74

12 13

Michelant, 530, 1. 13, quoted by Wilhelm Hertz, page 74
der Histoiria de preliis 110 (0. Zingerle, Die Quellen etc. 249) und des Ps.-Kamsth. III, 23 (C. Müller 134 f.)


Fig. 13: Marco Polo visiting the Kublai Khan Miniature from the Book "The Travels of Marco Polo" ("Il milione"), originally published during Polos lifetime 1298-1999, but frequently reprinted and translated .

The Clavi at the Roman tunics
A tunic is any of several types of clothing for the body, of various lengths reaching from the shoulders to somewhere between the hips and the ankles. The name derives from the Latin tunica commonly worn by both men and women in Ancient Rome, which in turn is based on earlier Greek garments. The Roman tunica was worn by citizens and non-citizens alike; citizens, though, might wear it under the toga, especially at formal occasions. The length of the garment, the presence or lack of stripes, as well as their width and ornamentation, would indicate the wearer's status in Roman society. Purple stripes (named clavi) were reserved for the knights and senators. As a divine emperor Nero reserved purple clothing for the imperial family. Etymologically the word “clavi” refers to two Latin words: • • The clavis – the key or the lock (from the verb claudo – “to lock”) clavus – (1) the iron nail, or in special cases (2) the rudder pin, (3) the tumor, respectively. (4) the purple or colored stripes at the tunic.

Claviger is the attribute for the ancient Roman deity Janus as a key-bearer. Originally the keys to be carried by Janus may not have been the standard metal keys. Instead they must have been religious keys to be stored in the purple Clavi-keys at the tunic. These symbols are as old as Janus himrespectively herself. The original gender of Janus is quite obscure. As most of the most ancient gods he or she is reported to have been an androgynous deity and predecessor of the androgynous skygod Jupiter. The androgynous character would explain the male and female attributes in the symbolic color purple.


The purple robe of Svantevit
Saxo Grammaticus14 describes the fortress Arcona at the cliffs of the island of Rügen, where a wooden temple with a purple roof did contain a four-headed divine sculpture wearing a purple robe. The temple may only have existed 100 years and has been destroyed at the 15th of June 1168 after a siege by Danish Christians. The color purple may refer to the androgynous character of the deity.

The royal Celtic grave at Hochdorf
The purple robe for the king at Hochdorf has been identified to be woven from very thin threads of red and blue color. The grave is dated at 530 BC. The colors red, blue and purple may refer to the androgynous character of the local Celtic deity.

Fig. 14: The grave for a Celtic sovereign found at Hochdorf

Purple prose
Purple prose is a term of literary criticism used to describe passages, or sometimes entire literary works, written in prose so overly extravagant, ornate, or flowery as to break the flow and draw attention to itself. Purple prose is sensually evocative beyond the requirements of its context. It also refers to writing that employs certain rhetorical effects such as exaggerated sentiment or pathos in an attempt to manipulate a reader's response. When it is limited to certain passages, they may be termed purple patches or purple passages; these are often noted as standing out from the rest of the work. The term purple patch is also used in a more general, and more unequivocally positive, sense to

quoted from: Ingrid Schmidt ”Götter, Mythen und Bräuche von der Insel Rügen”, Hinstorff Verlag Rostock 2002


refer to a period of outstanding achievement. This usage is particularly common in sporting contexts; for example, a footballer who had scored in six successive games might be said to be "enjoying a purple patch". The term "purple prose" is derived from a reference by the Roman poet Horace (Quintus Horatius Flaccus, 65–8 BCE) who wrote in his Ars Poetica (lines 14-21): Inceptis grauibus plerumque et magna professis purpureus, late qui splendeat, unus et alter adsuitur pannus, cum lucus et ara Dianae et properantis aquae per amoenos ambitus agros aut flumen Rhenum aut pluuius describitur arcus; sed nunc non erat his locus. Et fortasse cupressum scis simulare; quid hoc, si fractis enatat exspes nauibus, aere dato qui pingitur? "Your opening shows great promise, and yet flashy purple patches; as when describing a sacred grove, or the altar of Diana, or a stream meandering through fields, or the river Rhine, or a rainbow; but this was not the place for them. If you can realistically render a cypress tree, would you include one when commissioned to paint a sailor in the midst of a shipwreck?" The Ars Poetica was first translated into English by Queen Elizabeth I (1533–1603), although her translation remained unfinished at the time of her death. A complete translation by Ben Jonson (1572–1637) was first published in 1640, with another by Wentworth Dillon, 4th Earl of Roscommon, (1633–1685) following in 1680. These were all highly influential, with Horace regarded as the ultimate authority on good writing. Through them, the terms "purple patches", "purple passages", and "purple prose" became a standard part of the English critical lexicon. Purpureus meant lustrous or dazzling in Horace's Latin. In the Wikipedia entry Purple prose it is said: “Purple dye was rare in the Ancient World, with only the wealthiest able to afford it (this is why purple robes and trim came to be associated with the Emperor and, later, European royalty). During the Roman Republic, social climbers would sew purple cloth onto cheaper clothing to give an appearance of wealth. This was regarded as pretentious and gaudy.” This however does not respect the religious symbolism for purple, which refers to the basic symbolism in both fundamental religious elements red & blue. Purple is not a royal symbol for the high production cost in boiling a huge amount of purple snails. Purple is a precious royal symbol for its religious symbolism. The garments for the Celtic king found at Hochdorf15 do contain very fine16, semi-purple colored tissues woven from extremely thin red and blue threads. The raw materials and dyes for these individual red and blue threads must have been as expensive or even more expensive as purple from snails. These tissues were as expensive as the purple tissues created in the Mediterranean area. These purple cult objects, created at distances of thousands of kilometers and at intervals of centuries and millenniums, have invariably been considered as religious symbols. Therefore we should consider religious symbolism in the words “peers”, “pairs” and “paars” as well.


Hochdorf at the Enz is located near Stuttgart. at a high density of 80 threads pro cm


3 The colors red and blue
Charlemagne (Carolus Magnus, meaning Charles the Great; 742 – 814) has been described and depicted wearing a light purple robe in Spieghel Historiael by Jacob van Maerlant. The red & blue colors of his pairs and other nobles in the painting are clearly visible in the miniatures. Of course there is no yellow trace of betrayal or evil to be found in these images. The initials at the right borderline of the painting are standard medieval alternating initials in red & blue. Obviously by avoiding robes in green and yellow the medieval artist explains the safety and peaceful environment of a great and beloved ruler, protected and admired by his Pairs and other noble subjects. The purple refers to the divine support for the royals. Purple is the divine symbol which still has to be deciphered.

Fig. 15: Charlemagne at his court (detail) Jacob van Maerlant. Spieghel Historiael. West-Flanders, 1325-1335. Shelfnumber KA XX. Fol. 208r. Charlemagne at his court.


Fig. 16: Page from the medieval Spieghel Historiael Jacob van Maerlant. Spieghel Historiael. West-Flanders, 1325-1335. Shelfnumber KA XX. Fol. 208r. Charlemagne at his court.


Another miniature painting reveals the Flemish-Dutch author Jacob van Maerlant sitting at his desk, at which an open book may be identified. The author is wearing a light purple robe over a red dress. The initial applies exclusively red & blue signifying the author as a truthful religious guide for the divine path to heaven.

Fig. 17: Jacob van Maerlant In medieval documents the colors green (the Islamic symbolic color) and yellow (Judas' color) had to be avoided for sacred paintings. In the Middle Age yellow has been used to mark all kinds of evils like Judas and the prostitutes. Christian painters preferred red, blue and purple to decorate the sacred religious texts. These colors cannot be considered as simple decorations. They were symbols carrying religious messages. Of course the noble classes who ordered the expensive books carefully checked the coloring codes to avoid any mistakes in religious symbolism.


The miniature of Jacob van Maerlant is found at the front page of the Spiegel historiael. The layout for the page is restricted to red, blue and purple.

Fig. 18: frontpage for the Spiegel historiael 21

4 The Paars = the Pairs
The official etymological explanation for the Dutch word “paars” is rather obscure. Etymological experts suggest a derivation from Persae 'Persians', Persia 'Persia' and perzik (Peach). The main etymological database medieval words around 1300 AD: paars Substantive (as a 'colour') Mnl. perse 'purple (sheet)' [1294; VMNW], perse saye 'purple woolen sheets' [1296; VMNW], peers bruxsch lakene ' purple sheets from Brugge' [1343-44; MNW], groen of blaeu of root of paers [ca. 1475; MNW]. Two documents from 1672 and 1742 reveal references to the words „Paars“ respectively „Pers“, which may be analysed in details. Both documents describe an assembly hall for the peers of Leiden, called „Paars“ or „Pers“. Basically these words have been derived from Latin „Pares“, the “equals”. Korte besgryving van het Lugdunum Batavorum nu Leyden by Simon van Leeuwen – 1672 Het selve Stadhuys is soo onder als boven in verscheide plaatsen verdeelt, elk tot sijn byfonder gebruyk, als fijn boven de Grote Vroedschaps-kamer, Burgermeesters kamer, Schepens kamer, Secretarie, Griffie ende Wees-kamer, voor ende tussen dewelke een groote Wandel-plaats, dat men de Paars nomt, ten eynde van dewelke twee vertrekken voor sijn, daar de Burgen alle nagten de wagt houden. Boven deselve Paars is de Artelerie ende Wapen-kamer, Hedendaegsche historie... - Seite 523 by Thomas Salmon, Jan Wagenaar, Matthias Van Goch – 1742 Langs den eerst beschreeven' Buiten-opgang van twintig trappen naar bovengaande, komt men op eene ruime Zaal, gemeenlyk de Paars of Pers genaamd, die zeventig treden lang is. These words “paars” and “pers” may be related to English “peers” and “pairs”. Now “pair” itself is a complex word, symbolizing a plural in a singular word. The usage in Dutch is even more complicated than in English. When used without a modifier, pairs is the only possible plural: Pairs of skaters glided over the ice. When modified by a number, pairs is the more common form, especially referring to persons: Six pairs of masked dancers led the procession. The unmarked plural pair is used mainly in reference to inanimate objects or non-humans: He has three pair (or pairs) of loafers. Two pair (or pairs) of barn owls have nested on our property. Pair signifying two individuals can take either a singular or plural verb, but it is usually followed by a plural verb and referred to by a plural pronoun: The guilty pair have not been seen since their escape. In the sense “a set or combination of more than two objects forming a collective whole,” pair occurs chiefly in fixed phrases: a pair of beads; a pair of stairs. This use is now somewhat oldfashioned. reveals the following entries for


5 Conclusion
Purple has been respected and documented as a divine symbol by Moses (→ 25x in the book Exodus) and Solomon (→ 3 x in Chronicles), respectively the queen of Saba, at the Romans (→ emperor Nero), at the Slavian peoples (→ Svantevit) at the Celts (→ Hochdorf). According to Marco Polo17 purple may have been produced in Persia, probably resulting in the Dutch word “paars”. We are advised to consider purple, red and blue as international religious symbols. At the center of the rainbow's spectra green is the symbolic color for Islam. In the medieval crusades Christianity and Islam have been opponents at war, resulting in the medieval opponent color symbols green and purple (or red & blue). In ancient and medieval eras yellow is a betrayer's symbol for the evil and prostitutes. In Christianity yellow and green are contrasting to purple, red and blue. In contrast to green the religious symbol purple is a bipolar symbol referring to a mixture of red & blue. Further investigations18 allow us to consider a relation between “paars” and the English and French words “pairs” and “peers”. These references may have been caused by the Hanseatic trading language, which played an international role quite similar to modern English. The “Pairs” probably started as the group of 12 knights at the court of Charlemagne. Basically “pairs” and “peers” are bipolar, medieval symbol just like “purple” and “paars”, revealing religious and / or androgynous symbolism. Reconsidering the religious symbolism of red & blue in ancient documents we may also have to rephrase the idea to implement these colors as symbols in the flags, such as the Union Jack, the Star Spangled banner, as well as the national Dutch and French tricolors. Purple as an element in flags is rather seldom, which may have been forbidden for religious reasons, but red & blue are quit frequently found in flags all over the world. The number of evidences leading to religious symbolism is rising. Any day now the idea may become a standard scientific fact, as soon as it is to be accepted as a religious foundation from historical documents...

Fig. 19: National Dutch tricolors



1254 – 1324 see the Scribd- document The Sky-God Dyaeus.