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The White Marble Sculptures of Ancient Greece

December 21, 2016 by Jack Dziamba. New Post Goes Up Every Wednesday

The Colors of Ancient Greece

Tracing the Colors of Ancient Sculpture- Science and Art – Getty Museum

Using ultraviolet and raking light, archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann examines marble sculptures of Athena and Paris from the Temple of Aphaia, now in the Glyptothek in Munich. In the process, he reveals examples of physical evidence used to inform the recreations of the original color design and paint.

White marble sculptures of antiquity | Harvard Magazine

‘“I knew, of course, that Greek and Roman sculpture was once painted,”’says Susanne Ebbinghaus, Hanfmann curator of ancient art at the Harvard University Art Museums, “but there is a big difference between this abstract notion and actually attempting to imagine what the sculptures might have looked like.”’ Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity the Arthur M. Sackler Museum.

‘“We now assume that almost all Greek marble sculpture was painted,” she says. “These reconstructions can only be approximations,” but at least they dispel a popular misconception—that most statues of antiquity were plain old white. Plain would not be thought ideal until the Renaissance.’

“Organized by Munich’s Stiftung Archäologie and the Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, the exhibition drew crowds at home in 2004 and then began traveling. Athenians in long lines were fascinated and shocked. In Hamburg, says Ebbinghaus, some museum-goers proclaimed that Classical art was now dead for them.”

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Above: Athena, from the same temple and of the same date. Reconstruction has been restricted to areas whose original appearance may be determined with some certainty.

Above: Athena, from the Temple of Alphia, Agenia, Greek, c. 490-480 B.C. Reconstruction has been restricted to areas whose original appearance may be determined with some certainty. (Harvard Magazine)

 

 

 Above: Trojan archer from the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina, Greek, c. 490-480 B.C. He is probably Paris, who killed Achilles with an arrow to that famous heel. He wears the costume of the Scythians of central Asia.


Above: Trojan archer from the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina, Greek, c. 490-480 B.C. He is probably Paris, who killed Achilles with an arrow to that famous heel. He wears the costume of the Scythians of central Asia. (Harvard Magazine)

Above: The “Peplos” kore, Greek, c. 530 B.C., Acropolis Museum, Athens. The version at right was done first and drew criticism from those who say that the ancients painted only ornaments and details, never a whole sculpture. The second version is limited to colors that can be determined surely. “If there is color preserved on the hair of statues of Greek women and some men,” notes curator Susanne Ebbinghaus, “it is red. The red must have served as a base color, and so the yellow kore has been given brown hair.”

Above: The “Peplos” kore, Greek, c. 530 B.C., Acropolis Museum, Athens. The version at right was done first and drew criticism from those who say that the ancients painted only ornaments and details, never a whole sculpture. The second version is limited to colors that can be determined surely. “If there is color preserved on the hair of statues of Greek women and some men,” notes curator Susanne Ebbinghaus, “it is red. The red must have served as a base color, and so the yellow kore has been given brown hair.”  (Harvard Magazine)

 

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