Venetian red

Venetian red is a light, warm (somewhat unsaturated) pigment with a darker red hue, derived from almost pure hematite-like iron oxide (Fe2O3). Modern versions are often made with synthetic red iron oxide. Historically, Venetian red was an earthy red color often used in Italian Renaissance paintings. It was also called Sinopia because the best quality pigment came from the port of Sinop in northern Turkey. It was the main component of the pigment called cinabrese, which the 15th-century Italian painter and writer Cennino Cennini described in his painting manual Il libro dell’arte. Cennini advised mixing Venetian red with lemon white in a ratio of two to one for painting the skin tones of faces, hands, and nudes. During the English Civil War (1642-1651), Venetian red was adopted as the main uniform color of the New Model Army to facilitate mutual identification on the battlefield. Furthermore, Venetian red was cheaper than other dyes at the time. After the war, this practice was continued by the British Army, giving their soldiers the nickname “Redcoats” in the 18th and 19th centuries. Venetian red was replaced by khaki as the primary combat dress color in the British Army in the 1890s. The first recorded use of Venetian red as a color name in English was in 1753.