Coming from the heliotrope flower this charismatic color is reminiscent of a slightly lighter shade of magenta. According to A Dictionary of Color (1930), the term heliotrope was first used to represent a color in 1882.
There’s something incredibly interesting about this heartwarming hue. Firstly it’s name is somewhat ironic — referring to something sunny and yellowish, as the Greek words ‘helios’ means ‘sun’ and ‘trophies’ means ‘to turn’. Kassia St. Clair, author of The Secret Lives of Colors, wrote that the flowers were thought to follow the movement of the sun through the sky. However, in reality, the heliotrope did no such thing, it had been confused for ancient Egyptian plant used for making perfume.
Purple shades were considered to be trendy in Victorian-era women’s fashion. St. Clair writes:
“In the Victorian language of flowers, heliotrope often signified devotion, which is partly why it was one of the few colors women were allowed to wear after the death of a loved one. The cult of mourning reached its zenith during the nineteenth century, with ever more elaborate social rules governing what people, particularly women, could wear in the months and years following the death of a relative or monarch. Heliotrope and other soft shades of purple were required wearing during half-mourning. For widows, who endured the most serious degree of grief, half-mourning was reached only after two years of wearing plain, matte black dresses; for remoter relations, mourning was less severe and subdued colors were allowed from the beginning. A serious outbreak of influenza over the winter of 1890 resulted in a rash of black, gray, and heliotrope being worn the following year.”
Another noteworthy fact about heliotrope is its undeniable popularity among literature,high art, and popular culture. The ever controversial Finnegans Wake of James Joyce included the color into the many riddles present in his book — writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson too used heliotrope as a Colour reference in Hancock’s Half Hour. A certain purplish discoloration caused by dermatomyositis is called “heliotrope rash”. St. Clair also noted that Mrs. Cheveley of Oscar Wilde’s An Ideal Husband painted its iconic entrance in such color. To sum, St. Clair ended: “The word is pleasurable to say, filling the mouth like a rich, buttery sauce. Added to which, the color itself is intriguing: antiquated, unusual, and just a little bit brassy.”
It seems as literary figures are more in love with this heartwarming hue than artists themselves, photographers can easily replicate this charismatic color on film. A special color shift film such as the LomoChrome Purple 400 film accurately captures this shade in greens and sometimes in blues, but if you've run out of stock, you can simply mix purple and pink filters.
Make sure to share your heliotrope-colored photographs on your LomoHome for the analogue community to see!