Life was all white with Josiah about
A History Of Art In Three Colours BBC4, 9pm
"WHITE is a colour of virtue, of cleanliness, of innocence – a colour as pure as the driven snow," says art historian James Fox, a man who clearly never saw the Leeds United team of the 70s.
But, while the Greeks and Romans used it widely for X-rated statuary – always watch where you're hanging your coat in Athens – their achievements were soon forgotten.
All that changed in the 18th century when German art historian Johann Winckelmann stumbled across a vast storeroom filled with ancient white statues in Dresden (Germany, not Longton).
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"There was plenty to feast his eyes on," Fox revealed, "buttocks aplenty, muscular torsos."
It was like a hot summer's night at the Burton Stores.
Winckelmann was struck by the statues' beauty. He spoke of their 'liquid hair like tendrils kissed by
zephyrs' – think Peter Stringfellow in the 80s.
Inspired, he headed to Rome where he saw Apollo.
"This was the most beautiful man he'd ever seen," said Fox. "Just the sight of him got him hyperventilating."
Many said the same of Uncle Albert from Coronation Street.
"Apollo seemed to have everything," continued Fox, "the hair, the attitude, the body."
Mind you, they said that about Leo Sayer and where did he go? Winckelmann dedicated his life to persuading the world of these statues' splendour. But the man who made white popular again did so in Stoke-on-Trent, not Italy.
"This elegant building and its grounds is known as Etruria," said Fox, "and in the 18th century it was the home of Britain's most famous potter."
Not Phil Taylor, Wedgwood.
"It's fair to say Josiah Wedgwood was a very special man," said Fox, "the kind of citizen Winckelmann dreamed of producing – educator, antiquarian, scientist, and inventor. He supported the French revolution, backed American independence, and campaigned for the abolition of slavery."
Where he stood on Bovril was unclear.
Others brought white to the fore in literature. The artist Whistler found inspiration in Wilkie Collins's melodrama The Woman In White.
"I wound my way down slowly to the heath," reads the novel, "when in one moment every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop by the touch of a hand laid lightly and suddenly on my shoulder. "There, as if it had sprung from the earth or dropped from heaven, stood the figure of a solitary woman dressed from head to foot in white."
Whistler took a love of white to new levels.
"He wore white trousers," said Fox. "white waistcoats, and white jackets. He cultivated a big lock of white hair at the front of his head, and took to walking white Pomeranian dogs."
Sadly, the Milky Bar hadn't been invented.