The Pantone Colour Institute has selected Living Coral as 2019's colour of the year. "The natural, playful shade evokes a sense of comfort and buoyancy", says the team at Pantone. Get ready to see coral everywhere this year - in fashion and in home interiors.
While coral might seem like a very contemporary colour, reminiscent of summer holidays, it was around in the Middle Ages and earlier. Take, for example, Ghirlandaeo’s Portrait of Giovanna degli Albizzi Tornabuoni (1489–90), which we featured in the Renaissance issue:
"Giovanna is portrayed in profile, looking beautiful and inscrutable. Although her impressive jewels display wealth, the coral beads hanging on the wall behind her are most likely a rosary, signalling her religious devotion. Yet there is more to this rosary than meets the eye. Coral was said, by Ovid, to have been formed when Perseus placed the Gorgon Medusa’s severed head on a bed of seaweed, causing it to become petrified. Like the apotropaic Gorgoneion, coral was consequently believed to avert evil, as well as to strengthen the blood (which is why Renaissance infants were often pictured with coral beads or teething rattles). Coral was also thought to promote fertility in young women and to stop haemorrhages, while its colour came to be equated with the blood of Christ, all of which would have made handling a coral rosary a protective act for a devout young wife."
Few people nowadays would connect coral to religion and fertility, but the colour's warmth and pinkish hue continue to appeal. It is often perceived as a summery, tropical colour, and so, as we see Living Coral becoming a trend this year, it will be comforting to be reminded that warmer days are coming.
Blog post by Jessica Edney. Extract from the Renaissance issue by Clare Gibson.