Purple (lat. purpura), a lightfast, violet colour, but of multiple nuances, produced by the ancients from sea shells of the Mediterranean Sea and probably invented by the Phoenicians, but produced in different places. The finest purple was produced in Tyre, where this industry was still flourishing in the days of the Roman emperors, as well as on the island of Meninx (Djerba in the Gulf of Gabès, Tunisia). Many sea snails supply a red juice; but the real purple snails of antiquity are Murex brandaris and Murex trunculus and perhaps Purpura haemastoma, which are still used in a similar way in some parts of the Mediterranean. These snails secrete a yellowish mucus from a gland located in the roof of the respiratory cavity next to the rectum, which turns green, then blue, finally purple and scarlet in sunlight, producing a disgusting, long-lasting odor. The ancients seem to have produced the blue purple with Purpura trunculus (Purpura, pelagia) alone, but it was nuanced by the use of Purpura brandaris (Buccinum) and other dyes. The snails were caught with nets, crushed or removed from the shell, macerated with salt, and heated; the shriveled animals were then scooped out of the liquid, the wool to be dyed was immersed and left to dry in the sun, where the dye developed. The juice of the animals acts exactly like an indigo bath. For centuries the Phoenicians alone held the secret of making purple. The beautiful dye quickly gained general favour and from the earliest times was considered the distinction of rulers; gradually it went into general use, and Caesar and Augustus had to restrict its availability like that of other luxuries. The Roman emperors also transferred purple manufacture to Italy and monopolized it. In the Byzantine Empire purple became a new emblem of the emperor and his court; important imperial decrees were written in purple ink, and purple hats and purple trains are mentioned as late as the 15th century. The scarlet robes (purpurati) of the cardinals, introduced by Paul II, are still reminiscent of the old custom. The ancient Bretons prepared purple from Purpura lapillus. On the coast of Norway and Ireland, the juice of Purpura lapillus was still used for marking linen in the 18th century, fabrics dyed with purpura were found in the burial ground of Ancon, and the natives of Central America probably have dyed cotton fabric with the juice of Purpura patula from ancient times until today.

French purple (Pourpre français), s. Orseille; Purple of Cassius, s. Gold Purple.

Purple lake, as much as Madder Lake.

Single Pigment Colours

A small overview of purple (PV) single pigment colours suitable for miniatures, models, and dioramas.

  • Dioxazine Purple (PV 23), Golden Acrylic Paint 2150
  • Caesars’ Purple (translucent), MUSSINI Oils 366

Mixed Pigment Colours

  • Permanent Red Purple, Amsterdam Acrylic 348
  • Worm Purple, Citadel Colour 16
  • Imperial Purple, Citadel 25
  • Poison Purple, Coat d‘Arms 118
  • Warlock Purple, Coat d‘Arms 157
  • Amethyst Purple, Coat d‘Arms 160
  • Purple, Daler-Rowney Graduate Acrylics 433
  • Quinacridone Purple , GOLDEN Acrylics 1290
  • Cossack Purple, Howard Hues 1031
  • Purple, Humbrol 68
  • German Purple (WW1 Aircraft), Humbrol HG9
  • WWI Purple, Humbrol 107
  • Purple RAL 3004, Humbrol HR146
  • Royal Purple, Humbrol MC26
  • Purple, Lascaux STUDIO Acrylics 932
  • Brilliant Purple, Liquitex Basics Acrylic 590
  • Purple Magenta (semi-opague), Marabu 905
  • Madder dark (translucent), PRIMAcryl 13.324
  • Dark Red RAL 3004, Revell 361.32
  • Royal Purple, Vallejo 70.810
  • Purple, Vallejo 70.959
  • Warlord Purple, Vallejo 72.014


  • Dedekind: Ein Beitrag zur Purpurkunde (Berl. 1898–1906, 2 Bde)
  • Faymonville: Die Purpurfärberei der verschiedenen Kulturvölker des klassischen Altertums (Heidelb. 1900)
  • Lacaze-Duthiers: Mémoire sur la pourpre, in den »Annales des sciences naturelles« (4. Serie 1859)
  • Martens, v.: Purpur und Perlen (Berl. 1874)
  • Schmidt, W. A.: Forschungen auf dem Gebiet des Altertums, Bd. 1 (Berl. 1842)
  • Schunck: Purpur (Berl. 1879)

Source: Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon, 6. Auflage 1905–1909

Model Paints