The Language of Colour in the Bible: From Word to Image


The study of the language of colour has generated great attention since the 19th century in several fields, especially philology and art; exploring the great civilizations considered the bedrock of Europe: Greece and Rome. Surprisingly the Bible, the other pillar on which European culture is founded, has been left on the sidelines of this research, creating a primordial void.

This research project aims to bridge this gap and provide a more complete picture of the language of colour in a book that has inspired both literary and artistic works: the Bible. An interdisciplinary study of the biblical text in its original languages can certainly shed new light on the interpretation of the image and vice versa.

The objectives pursued in the field of philology are to determine the chromatic lexicon of the biblical text, the sensory perception it reflects and the symbolic dimension from which it emanates. In this sense, we believe that the Apocryphal literature and the early Christian literature can shed light on the meaning of colour in the biblical texts both with regard to sensorial perception and symbolism.

Concerning the field of artistic representations which have been inspired by the Bible, the objective of the research is to study how the artist uses chromatic language to reflect the biblical scenes, as well as analysing how the biblical language is used and reinterpreted. The period chosen to be studied is that covering the 10th-12th centuries. 


Colour, Bible, Symbol, Medieval Minitures, Medieval Bibles 


Mónica Durán
University of Granada

Lourdes García Ureña
Universidad CEU San Pablo

Emanuela Valeriani
Université de Genève 


Steering Committee

Marta Crispi
International University of Catalonia

Member Area

Toulouse 2022 Call for Papers

From Nature to Image and Word: A Study of Black 

Although the chromatic nature of black is currently discussed to the point of including it in the category of achromatic colours, this was not the case in ancient times. The colour black has always been reflected in nature in a great variety of tones and shades. Its reproduction in cave art was frequent, since obtaining its dyes and pigments did not offer great difficulties. This meant that in Rome the palette of black covered a wide range of shades: from matt to glossy black, intense black to less saturated black, as well as its proximity to the dark tones of colours such as brown, purple, grey and even blue. The chromatic properties of black influenced the lexicon of the languages of antiquity, which focused more on luminosity than on tone, hence the polysemy of many of the colour terms referring to black. Given its frequent use, black developed a wide and sometimes paradoxical symbolism in literature and art: death, the devil, hell, but also health, maturity, elegance.


For the 2022 conference, we are also welcoming papers which study:

1.        Colour terms related with the colour black in Antiquity (Hebrew, Hittite, Greek, Latin).

2.        Metaphor and Symbolism of the colour black in literature or in the artistic representations.

3.        Pigments and dyes used to elaborate the different hues of black.

4.        Restoration of artistic works and restitution of colours in religious painting.


Please contact the chairs for detail:

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