GREEK AND ROMAN STATUES
WORE TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOATS
GLEAMING white marble and limestone sculptures dominate our image of the Mediterranean world in classical antiquity.
However, it is not generally known that ancient architecture and sculptures were once painted in vivid colours.
But now, thanks to technology, experts are delving into the "archaeo-polychromy" of ancient reliefs and sculptures. They use digital scanners to detect faint smidgens of pigment. And then they do computer projections of what the original must have looked like.
For 10 years now, the traveling exhibit GODS IN COLOR (original title in German: Bunte Götter – Die Farbigkeit antiker Skulptur) shows statues such as "Paris the Trojan Archer" (above), from the west pediment of the Aphaia Temple in Aegina, the way that scientists believe the Ancient Greeks intended them to look.
The traveling exhibition currently is showing at the VIENNA ART HISTORY MUSEUM (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien) from now through March 17. The exhibition has been seen in major cities on every continent and is still heading to new cities. Watch for it at a museum near you ....
The experts stress that these mock-ups are only "best guess scenarios" of what the originals must have looked like. And there are many, many possible variations. The result is very flat and uniform.
After all, the experts are going by only minute flakes of pigment on a chin or cheek to project the color of the entire face.
No doubt the Ancient artists used varying hues, so that this bust of Caligula (left) would look much, much more lifelike than it does here in this modern mock-up.
The experts claim that even bronze statuary was often gilded and painted. We think of bronze being beautiful when it has acquired a patina of greenish age. But the Ancients thought that was dreadful.
They went to great pains to keep their bronze statues polished so that they gleamed in the sun. They put gemstones in the eyes and they gilded the lips and the brows and eyelashes.
Be sure to watch for this traveling exhibition at a museum near you!