Green equals life - or death?

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Green as the grass, a lush forest or an olive grove - the colour green has always signified hope, nature and fertility. Green means "Go!"; green stands for freshness. The colour green is said to have relaxing qualities and stimulate creativity. In other words: green appears to be positive through and through. But could the colour green also be life-threatening? And is "poisonous green" really poisonous?

Since ancient times, artists have been using copper to create green pigments. But these were fairly lacklustre and had a tendency to fade quickly. At the beginning of the 19th century, a far superior shade of green was finally discovered. Chemists had succeeded in creating an extremely bright, expressive emerald green. The so-called "Schweinfurt green" or "Paris green" was a compound of copper, acetic acid and arsenic. This paint was not only favoured by the artist Van Gogh, it also became a common component in the dyeing of textiles and wallpapers. But before long, it turned out to be dangerous, for as soon as the pigment came in touch with mould, highly poisonous arsenic was released and consequently entered the respiratory system. This lead to terrifying symptoms like headaches, skin rashes, weakened muscles, tiredness and mental confusion.

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Arsenic - the preferred poison of lady killers in crime thrillers - was soon at the centre of vivid speculation. Ever since the 1960s, there has been a suspicion that Napoleon's death on the island of St. Helena was caused by the green wallpaper in his bedroom. According to another legend, the German poet Friedrich Schiller died prematurely due to the green wallpaper in his abode.

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The truth is that the amount of arsenic emanating from wall décor is unlikely to have been sufficient to cause death, and Schiller died in 1805, before "Schweinfurt Green" was introduced into wallpaper manufacturing. In 1844, it was determined that copper arsenate acetate was toxic, and its use in textiles and wall hangings was outlawed in 1879.

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Thankfully, these days we can rely on health and safety regulations and thus happily benefit from the positive visual characteristics of the colour. Who wouldn't enjoy a beautiful view of lush green fields, who wouldn't be inspired by nature?

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A light or bright green will introduce an air of spring into your lounge or bedroom. A darker shade of green lends elegance and opulence to a room, and mint green provides your bathroom or studio with a cool freshness. Light blue, pink or red accessories are emphasised and highlighted by a green background. And green walls can also be beautifully combined with gold, yellow and orange hues.

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Be brave - bedeck your walls with the colour green. After all, even eminent German poet Goethe said: "When one cannot go on, and one will not go on, green is the colour best chosen for those rooms we spend the most time in." (Goethe, Johann Wolfgang: Zur Farbenlehre, 1810)

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