April 19, 2009

Purple Flags? The Sequel

It seems like only thirteen months ago that I wrote a post about Purple Flags. I did declare that it was a mystery why the color purple - a strong color, the color of royalty, a good Christian color - is represented on NOT ONE OF THE WORLD's national flags. I presented pictures of several of the curious flags, some regional ones, some defunct ones, which contained some purple, still a surprisingly tiny number - & I asked for help finding more. I still declare this a bizarre mystery, unsolved, why one of the major colors is almost unused in national iconography. Is it because nationalism & modern country flags grew up while royalty was losing its footing? Is it because purple is a more expensive dye, inherently un-populist - altho I suspect that explanation would have lost its logic by the 19th Century when flags were on the rise. In America, where, as pick-up truck bumpers inform us, these colors don't run, otherwise we'd have plenty of purple or light-purple flags.

Because the original Purple Flags essay became one of the most clicked-on posts at itwaslost.org, & it is not like us to deprive the loyal
readers what they want, HERE ARE MORE PURPLE FLAGS - some of which were mentioned but not shown in the last post or suggested by readers' comments.

Mr Brains Aha!, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, sent us the city's current flag:
Is the color related to the Fleur de Lise? Looks a bit bluish.

Here's Tokyo's Flag:
In the comments for the last post, Pele wrote "It's like an anime arse a-winkin' at me. Hard to think of any offensive cause with a purple flag, so I'm FER it!" Here here.

Do you remember the Iberian peninsula's Kingdom of León, which existed independently from 910 to 1301? (I've never seen a purple lion in Europe.) This is the "classic example" of porpora, or Purpure, the original rare tincture. You would think these high middle ages, with the height of heraldry, would be the origin of all the purple flags to follow, such as this Castile flag:

In that original post, I linked to The “purple” flag of Chuvashia at a "flags of the world" website. Here's that flag:
I notice now on that website, there's quite some debate there about what exactly purple is. António Martins writes:

[...]Then I decided to make an experiment. I grabed a handful of objects clearly red and other of purple ones, and then asked Russians and Chuvashs «What is this color?»…

The red ones, ranging from a Marlboro cigarrette pack to a Swiss Army knife, were imediately classified as "krasnyĭ". After some insistence, the swiss army knife could be called "temno-krasnyĭ". And then I’d ask: «Could it be "purpurnyĭ"?» and most would hesitate and concede a yes.

The purple ones, after some hesitation, were said to be "fioletovyĭ" or "malinovyĭ". Most people would confess that the differences between those words are not very definite, only maybe in the head of graphical artists. And then I’d ask: «But could any of these [the purple ones] be "purpurnyĭ"?» And every interviewed person, even already color confused, would imediately say: «No, not at all! Definitely not "purpurnyĭ"!».

The final question was «Apart from yellow, what’s the colour of your flag?». Not a single person replyed spontaneasly with "purpurnyĭ"! Everybody would say "krasnyĭ", rarely "temno-krasnyĭ" (or theyr chuvash equivalents), and when I asked «Is it "purpurnyĭ"?» they would hesitatingly reply «Yes, but… that’s not an often word…», and even one chuvash speaker was surprised to learn that the very word "purpur" exists in chuvash…

Careful direct observation of a large number of flags hoisted in public places and goverment buildings metal plates in Ĉeboksary | Чебоксары / Ŝupaŝkar | Шупашкар, Novoĉeboksarsk | Новочебоксарск, Alatyr | Алатыр and Kanaŝ | Канаш shown that the color used matches almost precisely with the shade of (dark) red in the handle of a so called Swiss Army knife (original Victorinox brand).
Not just in Chuvashia! You can see just from the flags pictured here, what purplish varieties, & how a couple stretch the definition. I remember from my Shakespeare days, that the bard often describes the color of blood as "purple".
The red rose and the white are on his face,
The fatal colours of our striving houses:

The one his purple blood right well resembles;

The other his pale cheeks, methinks, presenteth.
-Henry VI Part III, [II.v.97-100]
Unless I'm misreading that, King Henry seems to be comparing the purple color of blood with the red rose of Lancaster. At the end of Henry the Sixth Part III (spoiler alert!), Richard of Goucester describes the king's bleeding to death ("the aspiring blood of Lancaster / Sink in the ground") as purple tears [V.vi.61-64]. There in my Norton edition there's a side note defining purple as "blood-red". Thank you Stephen Greenblatt for your helpful annotations! I'm not sure any of this has furthered our understanding of the purple flag mystery, except to confuse the definitions a bit. There's plenty on the wikipedias about the history of purple.

The tiny purple flags at the top of the post are from the Gulf Shores of Alabama website: the purple flag, from their five flag warning system for jelly fish & rip tides, means "dangerous marine life present". That could explain the dearth of purple flags, it was frustrating that every time you tried to show patriotism, everyone would run for dry land.

Purple Flag wavers of the world, help us find more!


Anonymous said...

purple flags: takes one to know one.

cedarcrane said...

the quechua flag

and the aymara flag:

Anonymous said...

The Byzantine Navy has a purple flag

victorinox knife set said...

That was awesome!