SIGNIFICANCE OF COLORS
COLORS were used by the old masters of painting, especially in Italy, in a symbolic sense, thus :
White was the emblem of light, religious purity, and innocence. Our Saviour was dressed in white after his resurrection, and the Virgin in annunciation and assumption pictures.
Red signified divine love, heat, or the creative power, and royalty. White and red roses, as in St. Cecilia’s garland, expressed innocence and love. In a bad sense, red signified blood, war, hatred, and punishment. Red and black combined were the colors of purgatory and of Satan.
Blue expressed truth and constancy. Christ and the Virgin Mary wear the red tunic and the blue mantle, as signifying heavenly love and heavenly truth. The same colors were usually given to St. John with this difference, that he wears the blue tunic and the red mantle. In some later pictures the colors are red and green.
Yellow was the symbol of the sun, of the goodness of God, of marriage, of faith and fruitfulness. St. Joseph, the husband of the Virgin Mary, wears yellow. In pictures of the apostles, St. Peter wears a yellow mantle over a blue tunic. In a bad sense, yellow signified inconstancy, jealousy, deceit. In this latter sense it is given to the traitor, Judas Iscariot, who is generally clad in dirty yellow.
Green expressed hope, especially hope in immortality; also victory, as the color of the palm and the laurel.
Violet signified love and truth, or passion and suffering ; hence it is the color often worn by martyrs. Mary Magdalene as patron saint wears the red robe ; as a suffering penitent she wears violet. These colors, however, were not arbitrary, and exceptions may be found in the use of all of them, although that here given was general.