|Greenhouses and their reflections, Jardin de Plantes; Paris
|Autumn raindrops in the garden
|From around the newt pond this summer
|Growing in the pond
However, nothing can have quite the same effect as green glass beads...
|Glass bracelet I made using Swarovski beads, and black 'seeds'
|Handmade earrings and Swarovski ring...
Nymph, nymph, what are your beads?
Green glass, goblin. Why do you stare at them?
Give them me.
Give them me. Give them me.
Then I will howl all night in the reeds,
Lie in the mud and howl for them.
Goblin, why do you love them so?
They are better than stars or water,
Better than vocies of winds that sing,
Better than any man's fair daughter,
Your green glass beads on a silver ring.
Hush, I stole them from the moon.
Give me your beads, I desire them.
I will howl in a deep lagoon
For your green glass beads, I love them so.
Give them me. Give them.
In fact, green has always had a certain hold over humanity, said to symbolize the greenery of paradise in Islamic culture and today emblematic colour of all environmentally-friendly issues.
|Tea room in La Grande Mosquée; Paris
Not only has green proved to be elusive, but as a result of this it bears what has aptly been referred to as a 'noxious heritage'. Quite simply, synthetic green has a degree of toxicity that makes it very 'un-green' since it contaminates all in its contact. The consequences of our goblin greed for green has at times been lethal, but never more so than in Victorian Britain, as the book The Arsenic Century by James C Whorton demonstrates.
Contrary to our understanding of arsenic today, the Victorians believed that arsenic had many beneficial properties, despite being an effective, inexpensive rat poison! Indeed, it was used as a medical answer to many health issues - Charles Darwin is said to have used it to treat eczema, whilst many men would use it as a form of Victorian Viagra. However, it had a wide range of usages in Victorian manufacturing as an ingredient in cosmetics, cigarettes, alcoholic drinks, paper, paint and candles. Arsenic in one form or another played a daily role in the Victorian household - with varying noxious consequences...
With this new pigment many aesthetic possiblities were offered and so was born a desire for all things green, using a pigment ever-cheaper to manufacture. Nevertheless it gradually became apparent that people would pay the real price with their health and lives...
|Levant mine; Cornwall
It is reported that during the mid 19th century, up to 100 million square miles of arsenic-based pigment wallpaper adorned the British home as the demand for bright green decoration increased daily. Even cakes and confectionary were coloured green to satisfy this hunger for the verdant colour; absinthe was often fatally coloured to give it an attractive tint. Likewise, the textile industry witnessed huge enthusiasm for Emerald Green, and while ladies ostentaciously waltzed and paraded in green ballgowns and excessive daydresses, even wearers of discrete socks, stockings and underwear opted for shades of green, whilst more visible hats and gloves were, needless to say, green in colour.
Although the Victorians were aesthetically blissful in their ignorance, the effects of arsenic pigment soon exposed themselves. Damp wallpaper would decompose and release toxic arsenic vapours that smelt strangely of mice-droppings or garlic but would surely lead to serious intoxication through inhalation. It is indeed said that Napoleon Bonaparte may have died of such arsenic fumes in his wallpapered cell on Saint Helena island in 1821.
Those working in manufacturing industries reliant on arsenic suffered from chronic arsenic poisoning, often death, but similarily, those using their products had their health severely impaired too. The magnificient Emerald Green clothes liberated noxious particles that affected all those around them giving the beautiful wearers a lethal beauty. One perhaps to even die for...
Despite growing awareness and ever-increasing warnings about the noxious quality of arsenic-based pigment, these largely went unheeeded. In fact, arsenic production increased significantly so that Victorian Britain was to be the largest producer and consumer of the substance. Whilst the French and Germans took note of the hazards involved and introduced legislation accordingly, the British did not curb their appetite and despite safeguards recommended by the National Health Society, none were enforced by law.
Little by little, fashion dictated other aesthetic ideals and Emerald Green fell from grace, leaving behind it a trail of devastation and many fashion victims, although Scheele's Green itself was continued to be used as a highly effective insecticide until the 1930's.
|The ultimate green-eyed monster who just loves causing havoc on a laptop keyboard!