I am not posting very often these days because I am traveling in Borneo and have no time (or, often, no WiFi). But I have a quiet evening, so let’s talk about Magenta (town, battle, color, and food). Today is the anniversary the battle of Magenta, fought on 4 June 1859 during the Second Italian War of Independence, resulting in a French-Sardinian victory under Napoleon III against the Austrians under Marshal Ferencz Gyulai. It took place near the town of Magenta in the kingdom of Lombardy–Venetia, a crown land of the Austrian Empire. Napoleon III’s army crossed the Ticino River and outflanked the Austrian right forcing the Austrian army under Gyulai to retreat. The confined nature of the country, a vast spread of orchards cut up by streams and irrigation canals, precluded elaborate maneuver. The Austrians turned every house into a miniature fortress. The brunt of the fighting was borne by 5,000 grenadiers of the French Imperial Guard, still mostly in their First Empire style of uniforms. The battle of Magenta was not a particularly large battle, but it was a decisive victory for the Franco-Sardinian alliance. Patrice Maurice de MacMahon was created duke of Magenta for his role in this battle, and would later go on to serve as one of the presidents of the Third French Republic.
A dye producing the color magenta was invented in 1859, and was named after this battle, reportedly to represent the blood spilled. The first magenta aniline dye was made and patented by the French chemist François-Emmanuel Verguin, who originally called it fuchsine, but it was subsequently renamed to honor the battle. Magenta is an extra-spectral color, meaning that it is not found in the visible spectrum of light. Rather, it is physiologically and psychologically perceived as the mixture of red and violet/blue light, with the absence of green. In the RGB color system, used to create all the colors on a television or computer display, magenta is a secondary color, made by combining equal amounts of red and blue light at a high intensity. In this system, magenta is the complementary color of green, and combining green and magenta light on a black screen will create white. In the CMYK color model, used in color printing, it is one of the three primary colors, along with cyan and yellow, used to print all the rest of the colors. If magenta, cyan, and yellow are printed on top of each other on a page, they make black. In this model, magenta is the complementary color of green, and these two colors have the highest contrast and the greatest harmony. If combined, green and magenta ink will look dark gray or black. The magenta used in color printing, sometimes called process magenta, is a darker shade than the color used on computer screens.
Those who are old enough will remember that 1980s IBM b/w monitors could make magenta and cyan as well, producing some grainy, almost-colored images for games and such. I went for a Tandy knock-off because it came with a 16-color monitor, but I had several IBM games in black, white, magenta, and cyan, so I remember magenta well. Here’s magenta sticky rice from Vietnam (using natural plant dye):