An umbrella or parasol is a folding canopy supported by wooden or
metal ribs, which is usually mounted on a wooden, metal, or plastic
pole. It is designed to protect a person against rain or sunlight. The
word "umbrella" typically refers to a device used for protection from
rain. The word parasol usually refers to an item designed to protect
from the sun. Often the difference is the material used for the
canopy; some parasols are not waterproof.
Umbrella canopies may be
made of fabric or flexible plastic.
Umbrellas and parasols are primarily hand-held portable devices sized
for personal use. The largest hand-portable umbrellas are golf
umbrellas. Umbrellas can be divided into two categories: fully
collapsible umbrellas, in which the metal pole supporting the canopy
retracts, making the umbrella small enough to fit in a handbag; and
non-collapsible umbrellas, in which the support pole cannot retract
and only the canopy can be collapsed. Another distinction can be made
between manually operated umbrellas and spring-loaded automatic
umbrellas which spring open at the press of a button.
Hand-held umbrellas have some type of handle, either a wooden or
plastic cylinder or a bent "crook" handle (like the handle of a cane).
Umbrellas are available in a range of price and quality points,
ranging from inexpensive, modest quality models sold at discount
stores to expensive, finely made, designer-labeled models. Larger
parasols capable of blocking the sun for several people are often used
as fixed or semi-fixed devices, used with patio tables or other
outdoor furniture, or as points of shade on a sunny beach. The
collapsible/folding umbrella, the direct predecessor to the modern
umbrella, originated in China. These Chinese umbrellas were
internally supported with bendable, retractable, and extendable joints
as well as sliding levers similar to those in use today.
Parasols are sometimes called sunshades. An umbrella may also be
called a brolly (UK slang), parapluie (nineteenth century, French
origin), rainshade, gamp (British, informal, dated), or bumbershoot
2.1 Ancient China
2.2 Middle East
2.3 Ancient Egypt
2.4 Ancient Greece
2.5 Ancient Rome
2.6 Ancient India
2.8 Aztec Empire
2.9.1 16th century
2.9.2 17th century
2.9.3 18th and 19th centuries
3 Modern use
4 Other uses
4.1 In religious ceremony
4.1.1 Catholic Church
4.1.2 Oriental Orthodox Churches
4.2 In photography
4.3 For protection against attackers
4.4 As a weapon of attack
4.4.2 In arts and entertainment
5 In architecture
6 In art
7 See also
Man sitting under a beach umbrella
The word "parasol" (Spanish or French) is a combination of para,
meaning to stop or to shield, and sol, meaning sun. "Parapluie"
(French) similarly consists of para combined with pluie, which means
rain (which in turn derives from pluvia, the Latin word for rain).
Hence, a parasol shields from sunlight while a parapluie shields from
Parachute means "shield from fall".)
The word "umbrella" evolved from the Latin umbella (an umbel is a
flat-topped rounded flower) or umbra, meaning shaded or shadow.
In Britain, umbrellas were sometimes referred to as "gamps" after the
character Mrs. Gamp in the
Charles Dickens novel Martin Chuzzlewit,
although this usage is now obscure. Mrs. Gamp's character was well
known for carrying an umbrella.
Brolly is a slang word for umbrella, used often in Britain, Ireland,
New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Kenya.
Bumbershoot is a fanciful Americanism from the late 19th century.
Terracotta Army carriage with an umbrella securely fixed to the
side, from Qin Shihuang's tomb, c. 210 BC
Parasols in Wuhan, China
In all written records, the oldest reference to a collapsible umbrella
dates to the year 21 AD, when
Wang Mang (r. 9–23) had one designed
for a ceremonial four-wheeled carriage. The 2nd-century commentator
Fu Qian added that this collapsible umbrella of Wang Mang's carriage
had bendable joints which enabled them to be extended or retracted.
A 1st century collapsible umbrella has since been recovered from the
tomb of Wang Guang at
Lelang Commandery in the Korean Peninsula,
illustrated in a work by Harada and Komai. However, the Chinese
collapsible umbrella is perhaps a concept that is yet centuries older
than Wang's tomb.
Zhou Dynasty bronze castings of complex bronze
socketed hinges with locking slides and bolts—which could have been
used for parasols and umbrellas—were found in an archeological site
of Luoyang, dated to the 6th century BC.
An even older source on the umbrella is perhaps the ancient book of
Chinese ceremonies, called Zhou Li (The Rites of Zhou), dating 2,400
years ago, which directs that the dais should be placed upon the
imperial cars. The figure of this dais contained in Zhou-Li, and the
description of it given in the explanatory commentary of Lin-hi-ye,
both identify it with an umbrella. The latter describes the dais to be
composed of 28 arcs, which are equivalent to the ribs of the modern
instrument, and the staff supporting the covering to consist of two
parts, the upper being a rod 3/18 of a Chinese foot in circumference,
and the lower a tube 6/10 in circumference, into which the upper half
is capable of sliding and closing.
The Chinese character for umbrella is 傘 (sǎn) and is a pictograph
resembling the modern umbrella in design. Some investigators have
supposed that its invention was first created by tying large leaves to
bough-like ribs (the branching out parts of an umbrella). Others
assert that the idea was probably derived from the tent, which remains
in an unaltered form to the present day. However, the tradition
existing in China is that it originated in standards and banners
waving in the air, hence the use of the umbrella was often linked to
high-ranking (though not necessarily royalty) in China. On at least
one occasion, twenty-four umbrellas were carried before the Emperor
when he went out hunting. The umbrella served in this case as a
defense against rain rather than sun. The Chinese design was later
brought to Japan via Korea and also introduced to
Persia and the
Western world via the Silk Road. The Chinese and Japanese traditional
parasol, often used near temples, remains similar to the original
ancient Chinese design.
Song Dynasty Chinese divination book that was printed in about
1270 AD features a picture of a collapsible umbrella that is exactly
like the modern umbrella of today's China.
In the sculptures at Nineveh, the parasol appears frequently.
Austen Henry Layard
Austen Henry Layard gives a picture of a bas-relief representing a
king in his chariot, with an attendant holding a parasol over his
head. It has a curtain hanging down behind, but is otherwise
exactly like those in use today. It is reserved exclusively for
the monarch (who was bald), and is never carried over any other
In Persia, the parasol is repeatedly found in the carved work of
Persepolis, and Sir
John Malcolm has an article on the subject in his
1815 "History of Persia." In some sculptures, the figure of a king
appears attended by a servant, who carries over his head an umbrella,
with stretchers and runner complete. In other sculptures on the
rock at Taghe-Bostan, supposed to be not less than twelve centuries
old, a deer-hunt is represented, at which a king looks on, seated on a
horse, and having an umbrella borne over his head by an attendant.
In ancient Egypt, the parasol is found in various shapes. In some
instances it is depicted as a flagellum, a fan of palm-leaves or
coloured feathers fixed on a long handle, resembling those now carried
Pope in processions. Gardiner Wilkinson, in his work on
Egypt, has an engraving of an Ethiopian princess travelling through
Upper Egypt in a chariot; a kind of umbrella fastened to a stout pole
rises in the centre, bearing a close affinity to what are now termed
chaise umbrellas. According to Wilkinson's account, the umbrella
was generally used throughout Egypt, partly as a mark of distinction,
but more on account of its useful than its ornamental qualities.
In some paintings on a temple wall, a parasol is held over the figure
of a god carried in procession.
In Greece, the parasol (skiadeion), was an indispensable adjunct to a
lady of fashion in the late 5th century BC.
it among the common articles of female use; they could apparently
open and close. Pausanias describes a tomb near Triteia in Achaia
decorated with a 4th-century BC painting ascribed to Nikias; it
depicted the figure of a woman, "and by her stood a female slave,
bearing a parasol". For a man to carry one was considered a mark
of effeminacy. In Aristophanes' Birds,
Prometheus uses one as a
Cultural changes among the
Aristoi of Greece eventually led to a brief
period - between 505 and 470BC - where men used parasols. Vase
iconography bears witness to a transition from men carrying swords,
then spears, then staffs, then parasols, to eventually nothing. The
parasol, at that time of its fashion, displayed the luxury of the
user's lifestyle. During the period of their usage, Greek style
was inspired by the Persian and Lydian nobility’s way of dressing:
loose robes, long decorated hair, gold, jewellery, and perfume.
It also had religious significance. In the Scirophoria, the feast of
Athene Sciras, a white parasol was borne by the priestesses of the
goddess from the
Acropolis to the Phalerus. In the feasts of Dionysos,
the umbrella was used, and in an old bas-relief, the same god is
represented as descending ad inferos with a small umbrella in his
hand. In the Panathenæa, the daughters of the Metics, or foreign
residents, carried parasols over the heads of Athenian women as a mark
From Greece it is probable that the use of the parasol passed to Rome,
where it seems to have been usually used by women, while it was the
custom even for effeminate men to defend themselves from the heat by
means of the Umbraculum, formed of skin or leather, and capable of
being lowered at will. There are frequent references to the umbrella
in the Roman Classics, and it appears that it was, not unlikely, a
post of honour among maid-servants to bear it over their mistresses.
Allusions to it are tolerably frequent in the poets. (
Ovid Fast. lib.
ii., 1. 31 I.; Martial, lib. xi., ch. 73.; lib. xiv, ch. 28, 130;
Juvenal, ix., 50.;
Ovid Ars. Am., ii., 209). From such mentions the
umbrella does not appear to have been used as a defence from rain;
this is curious enough, for it is known that the theatres were
protected by the velarium or awning, which was drawn across the arena
whenever a sudden shower came on. Possibly the expense bestowed in the
decoration of the umbraculum was a reason for its not being applied to
According to Gorius, the umbrella came to Rome from the
came to Rome for protection, and certainly it appears not infrequently
on Etruscan vases and pottery, as also on later gems and rubies. One
gem, figured by Pacudius, shows an umbrella with a bent handle,
Strabo describes a sort of screen or umbrella worn
by Spanish women, but this is not like a modern umbrella.
See also: Chatra (umbrella)
Woman holding an umbrella
Gupta Empire AD 320
Mahabharata (about 4th century BC) relates the
Jamadagni was a skilled bow shooter, and his devoted
Renuka would always recover each of his arrows immediately. One
time however, it took her a whole day to fetch the arrow, and she
later blamed the heat of the sun for the delay. The angry Jamadagni
shot an arrow at the sun. The sun begged for mercy and offered Renuka
Jean Baptiste Tavernier, in his 17th century book "Voyage to the
East", says that on each side of the Mogul's throne were two
umbrellas, and also describes the hall of the King of Ava was
decorated with an umbrella. The chháta of the Indian and Burmese
princes is large and heavy, and requires a special attendant, who has
a regular position in the royal household. In Ava it seems to have
been part of the king's title, that he was "King of the white
elephant, and Lord of the twenty-four umbrellas." In 1855 the King of
Burma directed a letter to the Marquis of Dalhousie in which he styles
himself "His great, glorious, and most excellent Majesty, who reigns
over the kingdoms of Thunaparanta, Tampadipa, and all the great
umbrella-wearing chiefs of the Eastern countries".
Simon de la Loubère, who was Envoy Extraordinary from the French King
to the King of
Siam in 1687 and 1688, wrote an account entitled a "New
Historical Relation of the Kingdom of Siam", which was translated in
1693 into English. According to his account, the use of the umbrella
was granted to only some of the subjects by the king. An umbrella with
several circles, as if two or three umbrellas were fastened on the
same stick, was permitted to the king alone; the nobles carried a
single umbrella with painted cloths hanging from it. The Talapoins
(who seem to have been a sort of Siamese monks) had umbrellas made of
a palm-leaf cut and folded, so that the stem formed a handle.
Royal Nine-Tiered Umbrella
Royal Nine-Tiered Umbrella is one of the royal regalia of
The At district of
Tenochtitlan was reported to have used an umbrella
made from feathers and gold as its pantli, an identifying marker that
is the equivalent of a modern flag. The pantli was carried by the army
The extreme paucity of allusions to umbrellas throughout the Middle
Ages shows that they were not in common use. In an old romance, "The
Blonde of Oxford", a jester makes fun of a nobleman for being out in
the rain without his cloak. "Were I a rich man", says he, "I would
bear my house about with me". It appears that people depended on
cloaks, not umbrellas, for protection against storms.[improper
Madonna dell Ombrello, by Girolamo dai Libri, 1530
One of the earliest depictions is in a painting by Girolamo dai Libri
from 1530 titled Madonna dell Ombrello (Madonna of the Umbrella) in
which the Virgin Mary is sheltered by a cherub carrying a large, red
Marchesa Elena Grimaldi, by Anthonis van Dyck, 1623
Thomas Wright, in his Domestic Manners of the English, gives a drawing
from the Harleian MS., No. 604, which represents an Anglo-Saxon
gentleman walking out attended by his servant, the servant carrying an
umbrella with a handle that slopes backwards, so as to bring the
umbrella over the head of the person in front. It probably could
not be closed, but otherwise it looks like an ordinary umbrella, and
the ribs are represented distinctly.
The use of the parasol and umbrella in France and England was adopted,
probably from China, about the middle of the seventeenth century.
At that period, pictorial representations of it are frequently found,
some of which exhibit the peculiar broad and deep canopy belonging to
the large parasol of the Chinese Government officials, borne by native
John Evelyn, in his Diary for 22 June 1664, mentions a collection of
rarities shown to him by "Thompson", a
Roman Catholic priest, sent by
the Jesuits of Japan and China to France. Among the curiosities
were "fans like those our ladies use, but much larger, and with long
handles, strangely carved and filled with Chinese characters", which
is evidently a description of the parasol.
In Thomas Coryat's Crudities, published in 1611, about a century and a
half prior to the general introduction of the umbrella into
England, is a reference to a custom of riders in Italy using
And many of them doe carry other fine things of a far greater price,
that will cost at the least a duckat, which they commonly call in the
Italian tongue umbrellas, that is, things which minister shadowve to
them for shelter against the scorching heate of the sunne. These are
made of leather, something answerable to the forme of a little
cannopy, & hooped in the inside with divers little wooden hoopes
that extend the umbrella in a pretty large compasse. They are used
especially by horsemen, who carry them in their hands when they ride,
fastening the end of the handle upon one of their thighs, and they
impart so large a shadow unto them, that it keepeth the heate of the
sunne from the upper parts of their bodies.
In John Florio's "A WORLD of Words" (1598), the Italian word Ombrella
a fan, a canopie. also a testern or cloth of state for a prince. also
a kind of round fan or shadowing that they vse to ride with in sommer
in Italy, a little shade. Also a bonegrace for a woman. Also the husk
or cod of any seede or corne. also a broad spreding bunch, as of
fenell, nill, or elder bloomes.
In Randle Cotgrave's Dictionary of the French and English Tongues
(1614), the French Ombrelle is translated
An umbrello; a (fashion of) round and broad fanne, wherewith the
Indians (and from them our great ones) preserve themselves from the
heat of a scorching sunne; and hence any little shadow, fanne, or
thing, wherewith women hide their faces from the sunne.
In Fynes Moryson's Itinerary (1617) is a similar allusion to the habit
of carrying umbrellas in hot countries "to auoide the beames of the
Sunne". Their employment, says the author, is dangerous, "because they
gather the heate into a pyramidall point, and thence cast it down
perpendicularly upon the head, except they know how to carry them for
auoyding that danger".
During Streynsham Master's 1676 visit to the East India Company's
Masulipatnam he noted that only the governor of the town
and the next three officials in seniority were allowed to have "a
roundell [i.e. umbrella] carried over them."
In France, the umbrella (parapluie) began to appear in the 1660s, when
the fabric of parasols carried for protection against the sun was
coated with wax. The inventory of the French royal court in 1763
mentioned "eleven parasols of taffeta in different colours" as well as
"three parasols of waxed toile, decorated around the edges with lace
of gold and silver." They were rare, and the word parapluie ("against
the rain") did not enter the dictionary of the Académie française
until 1718. 
18th and 19th centuries
Parisians in the rain with umbrellas, by
Louis-Léopold Boilly (1803)
Kersey's Dictionary (1708) describes an umbrella as a "screen commonly
used by women to keep off rain".
The first lightweight folding umbrella in Europe was introduced in
1710 by a Paris merchant named Jean Marius, whose shop was located
near the barrier of Saint-Honoré. It could be opened and closed in
the same way as modern umbrellas, and weighed less than one kilogram.
Marius received from the King the exclusive right to produce folding
umbrellas for five years. A model was purchased by the Princess
Palatine in 1712, and she enthused about it to her aristocratic
friends, making it an essential fashion item for Parisiennes. In 1759,
a French scientist named Navarre presented a new design to the French
Academy of Sciences for an umbrella combined with a cane. Pressing a
small button on the side of the cane opened the umbrella.
Their use became widespread in Paris. In 1768, a Paris magazine
"The common usage for quite some time now is not to go out without an
umbrella, and to have the inconvenience of carrying it under your arm
for six months in order to use it perhaps six times. Those who do not
want to be mistaken for vulgar people much prefer to take the risk of
being soaked, rather than to be regarded as someone who goes on foot;
an umbrella is a sure sign of someone who doesn't have his own
Paris Street; Rainy Weather, by
Gustave Caillebotte (1877)
In 1769, the Maison Antoine, a store at the Magasin d'Italie on rue
Saint-Denis, was the first to offer umbrellas for rent to those caught
in downpours, and it became a common practice. The Lieutenant General
of Police of Paris issued regulations for the rental umbrellas; they
were made of oiled green silk, and carried a number so they could be
found and reclaimed if someone walked off with one. 
By 1808 there were seven shops making and selling umbrellas in Paris;
Sagnier on rue des Vielles-Haudriettes, received the first
patent given for an invention in France for a new model of umbrella.
By 1813 there were 42 shops; by 1848 there were three hundred
seventy-seven small shops making umbrellas in Paris, employing 1400
workers. One of the well-known makers was Boutique Bétaille, which
was located at rue Royale 20 from 1880-1939. Another was Revel, based
in Lyon. By the end of the century, however, cheaper manufacturers in
the Auvergne replaced Paris as the centre of umbrella manufacturing,
and the town of
Aurillac became the umbrella capital of France. The
town still produces about half the umbrellas made in France; the
umbrella factories there employ about one hundred workers. 
A parasol depicted in Morning Walk, by
John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent (1888)
In Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, he constructed his own umbrella in
imitation of those that he had seen used in Brazil. "I covered it with
skins," he says, "the hair outwards, so that it cast off the rain like
a pent-house, and kept off the sun so effectually, that I could walk
out in the hottest of the weather with greater advantage than I could
before in the coolest." From this description the original heavy
umbrella came to be called "Robinson" which they retained for many
years in England.
Captain James Cook, in one of his voyages in the late 18th century,
reported seeing some of the natives of the South Pacific Islands with
umbrellas made of palm leaves.
The use of the umbrella or parasol (though not unknown) was uncommon
in England during the earlier half of the eighteenth century, as is
evident from the comment made by General (then Lieut.-Colonel) James
Wolfe, when writing from Paris in 1752; he speaks of the use of
umbrellas for protection from the sun and rain, and wonders why a
similar practice did not occur in England. About the same time,
umbrellas came into general use as people found their value, and got
over the shyness natural to its introduction. Jonas Hanway, the
founder of the Magdalen Hospital, has the credit of being the first
man who ventured to dare public reproach and ridicule by carrying one
habitually in London. As he died in 1786, and he is said to have
carried an umbrella for thirty years, the date of its first use by him
may be set down at about 1750. John Macdonald relates that in 1770, he
used to be addressed as, "Frenchman, Frenchman! why don't you call a
coach?" whenever he went out with his umbrella. By 1788 however
they seem to have been accepted: a London newspaper advertises the
sale of 'improved and pocket Umbrellas, on steel frames, with every
other kind of common Umbrella.' But full acceptance is not
complete even today with some considering umbrellas effete.[citation
Since then, the umbrella has come into general use, in consequence of
numerous improvements. In China people learned how to waterproof their
paper umbrellas with wax and lacquer. The transition to the present
portable form is due, partly, to the substitution of silk and gingham
for the heavy and troublesome oiled silk, which admitted of the ribs
and frames being made much lighter, and also to many ingenious
mechanical improvements in the framework.
Victorian era umbrellas had
frames of wood or baleen, but these devices were expensive and hard to
fold when wet. Samuel Fox invented the steel-ribbed umbrella in 1852;
Encyclopédie Méthodique mentions metal ribs at the end
of the eighteenth century, and they were also on sale in London during
the 1780s. Modern designs usually employ a telescoping steel
trunk; new materials such as cotton, plastic film and nylon often
replace the original silk.
Collapsed umbrellas in a temple in Japan
A stream of people and umbrellas inside the
Tokyo Imperial Palace
Tokyo Imperial Palace on a
rainy autumn day
Beach parasols in Selce, Croatia
Umbrella Day is held on 10 February each year around the
In 1928, Hans Haupt's pocket umbrellas appeared. In Vienna in
1928, Slawa Horowitz, a student studying sculpture at the Akademie der
Bildenden Kunste Wien (Academy of Fine Arts), developed a prototype
for an improved compact foldable umbrella for which she received a
patent on 19 September 1929. The umbrella was called "Flirt" and
manufactured by the Austrian company "Brüder Wüster" and their
German associates "Kortenbach & Rauh". In Germany, the small
foldable umbrellas were produced by the company "Knirps", which became
a synonym in the German language for small foldable umbrellas in
general. In 1969, Bradford E Phillips, the owner of
of Loveland, Ohio, obtained a patent for his "working folding
Umbrellas have also been fashioned into hats as early as 1880 and at
least as recently as 1987.
Golf umbrellas, one of the largest sizes in common use, are typically
around 62 inches (157 cm) across, but can range anywhere from 60
to 70 inches (150 to 180 cm).
Umbrellas are now a consumer product with a large global market. As of
2008, most umbrellas worldwide are made in China, mostly in the
Zhejiang provinces. The city of
had more than a thousand umbrella factories. In the US alone, about 33
million umbrellas, worth $348 million, are sold each year.
Umbrellas continue to be actively developed. In the US, so many
umbrella-related patents are being filed that the U.S. Patent Office
employs four full-time examiners to assess them. As of 2008, the
office registered 3000 active patents on umbrella-related inventions.
Nonetheless, Totes, the largest American umbrella producer, has
stopped accepting unsolicited proposals. Its director of umbrella
development was reported as saying that while umbrellas are so
ordinary that everyone thinks about them, "it's difficult to come up
with an umbrella idea that hasn’t already been done."
Testing a Senz storm umbrella in Rotterdam, using a high-powered fan
While the predominate canopy shape of an umbrella is round, canopy
shapes have been streamlined to improve aerodynamic response to wind.
Examples include the stealth-shaped canopy of Rizotti (1996),
scoop-shaped canopy of Lisciandro (2004), and teardrop-shaped
canopies of Hollinger (2004).
In 2005 Gerwin Hoogendoorn, a Dutch industrial design student of
the Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, invented an
aerodynamically streamlined storm umbrella (with a similar shape as a
stealth plane) which can withstand wind force 10 (winds of up
to 100 km/h or 70 mp/h) and won't turn inside-out like a
regular umbrella as well as being equipped with so-called
‘eyesavers’ which protect others from being accidentally wounded
by the tips. Hoogendoorn's storm umbrella was nominated for and
won several design awards and was featured on Good Morning
America. The umbrella is sold in Europe as the Senz umbrella and
is sold under license by
Totes in the United States.
Alan Kaufman's "Nubrella" and Greg Brebner's "Blunt" are other
The umbrella is used in weather forecasting as an icon for rain. Two
variations, a plain umbrella (☂, U+2602) and an umbrella with
raindrops overhead (☔, U+2614), are encoded in the Miscellaneous
Symbols block of Unicode.
In religious ceremony
Procession of the
Doge of Venice
Doge of Venice (16th century)
Umbraculum from the
Basilica of Saint Servatius, Maastricht
As a canopy of state, umbrellas were generally used in southern and
eastern Europe, and then passed from the imperial court into church
ceremony. They are found in the ceremonies of the Byzantine Rite, were
borne over the Host in procession, and form part of the Pontifical
The ombrellino or umbraculum is a historic piece of the papal regalia.
Although the popes no longer use it personally, it is displayed on the
coat of arms of a sede vacante (the papal arms used between the death
of a pope and the election of his successor). This umbraculum is
normally made of alternating red and gold fabric, and is usually
displayed in a partially unfolded manner. The popes have traditionally
bestowed the use of the umbraculum as a mark of honor upon specific
persons and places. The use of an umbraculum is one of the honorary
symbols of a basilica and may be used in the basilica's coat of arms,
and carried in processions by the basilica's canons.
A large umbrella is displayed in each of the Basilicas of Rome, and a
cardinal bishop who receives his title from one of those churches has
the privilege of having an umbrella carried over his head in solemn
processions. It is possible that the galero (wide-brimmed cardinal's
hat) may be derived from this umbrella. Beatiano, an
Italian herald, says that "a vermilion umbrella in a field argent
Ethiopian Orthodox clergymen lead a procession in celebration of Saint
Michael. The priests carry ornately covered Tabota around the church's
exterior, assisted by deacons holding liturgical umbrellas.
An umbrella, also known as the umbraculum or ombrellino, is used in
Roman Catholic liturgy as well. It is held over the
Holy Sacrament of
Eucharist and its carrier by a server in short processions taking
place indoors, or until the priest is met at the sanctuary entrance by
the bearers of the processional canopy or baldacchino. It is regularly
white or golden (the colours reserved for the Holy Sacrament) and made
Oriental Orthodox Churches
In several Oriental Orthodox Churches, such as the Ethiopian Orthodox
Tewahedo Church, umbrellas are used liturgically to show honor to a
person (such as a bishop) or a holy object. In the ceremonies of
Timkat (Epiphany), priests will carry a model of the Tablets of Stone,
called a Tabot, on their heads in procession to a body of water, which
will then be blessed. Brightly colored embroidered and fringed
liturgical parasols are carried above the Tabota during this
procession. Such processions also take place on other major feast
Main article: Reflector (photography)
Umbrellas with a reflective inside are used by photographers as a
diffusion device when employing artificial lighting, and as a glare
shield and shade, most often in portrait situations. Some
umbrellas are shoot-through umbrellas, meaning the light goes through
the umbrella and is diffused, rather than reflecting off the inside of
For protection against attackers
In 1838, the Baron Charles Random de Berenger instructed readers of
his book How to Protect Life and Property in several methods of using
an umbrella as an improvised weapon against highwaymen.[citation
In 1897, journalist J. F. Sullivan proposed the umbrella as a
misunderstood weapon in a tongue-in-cheek article for the Ludgate
Between 1899 and 1902, both umbrellas and walking sticks as self
defence weapons were incorporated into the repertoire of Bartitsu.
In January 1902, an article in
The Daily Mirror
The Daily Mirror instructed women on
how they could defend themselves from ruffians with an umbrella or
In March 2011, media outlets revealed that French president Nicolas
Sarkozy had started using a £10,000 armor-plated umbrella to protect
him from attackers. "Para Pactum" is a Kevlar-coated device made by
The Real Cherbourg. It will be carried by a member of Sarkozy's
During the 2014 Hong Kong protests, sometimes referred to as the
Umbrella Revolution", protesters used umbrellas as shields against
the pepper spray and tear gas used by riot police.
As a weapon of attack
In 1978, Bulgarian dissident writer
Georgi Markov was killed in London
by a dose of ricin injected via a modified umbrella. The
KGB is widely
believed to have developed a modified umbrella that could deliver a
In 2005, in a well-known case in South Africa, Brian Hahn, associate
professor in mathematics and applied mathematics at the University of
Cape Town, was beaten to death with an umbrella by ex-doctoral student
Maleafisha Steve Tladi.
In arts and entertainment
John Steed, in the television series The Avengers, used an umbrella
which was part yardstick.
In the film
Batman Returns (1992), the Penguin (Danny DeVito) sports a
bullet and gas-firing umbrella.
A high-tech bullet-resistant umbrella is used extensively as a weapon
in the film Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015), by characters Harry
Hart (Colin Firth) and Eggsy Unwin (Taron Egerton).
In the Kirby video game series, one of Kirby's Copy Abilities, called
Parasol, has Kirby using a parasol as a weapon. It is also used to
slow Kirby's descent when in the air.
Umbrellas on Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas, USA
Pedestrian View of Retractable Umbrellas, Prophet´s Holy Mosque,
In the 1950s
Frei Otto transformed the universally used individual
umbrella into an item of lightweight architecture. He developed a new
umbrella form, based on the minimum surface principle. The tension
loaded membrane of the funnel-shaped umbrella is now stretched under
the compression-loaded bars. This construction type made it
technically and structurally possible to build very large convertible
umbrellas. The first umbrellas of this kind (Federal Garden
Exhibition, Kassel, 1955) were fixed,
Frei Otto constructed the first
convertible large umbrellas for the Federal Garden Exhibition in
Cologne 1971. In 1978 he built a group of ten convertible
umbrellas for British rock group Pink Floyd's American tour. The great
beauty of these lightweight structures inspired many subsequent
projects built all over the world. The largest convertible umbrellas
built until now were designed by
Mahmoud Bodo Rasch
Mahmoud Bodo Rasch and his team at
SL-Rasch to provide shelter from sun and rain for the great
mosques in Saudi Arabia.
Later works by the architect
Le Corbusier such as Centre Le Corbusier
Villa Shodhan involve a parasol, which served as a roof structure
and provided cover from the sun and wind.
Umbrellas and parasols in art
Couple under umbrella in snow, Suzuki Harunobu
The parasol is one of the
Eight Auspicious Symbols
Eight Auspicious Symbols of Tibetan
A painting of Chancellor
Pierre Séguier with a parasol hoisted above
his head, by Charles Le Brun, 1670
Japanese girl jumps from Kiyomizu-dera, Suzuki Harunobu, 1750
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Umbrellas, 1883
Woman with a Parasol - Madame Monet and Her Son, 1875
Woman with a parasol, by Édouard Manet, 1881
Colin Campbell Cooper, Summer, 1918
Victor Gabriel Gilbert, woman with Japanese parasol, 1933
Statue of George Palmer
Statue of George Palmer by George Blackall Simmonds, 1891
Contemporary Street Art in Port Louis, Mauritius
Shop decoration - Budapest, 2016
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Umbrellas.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Umbrellas
James Smith & Sons
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