30 May 2010

A reminder that ancient statuary was often painted

This painting is by Jean-Léon Gérôme - Painting Breathes Life into Sculpture, 1893.  (click for bigger)
Although it was initially thought that Greek statues were mostly unadorned white marble, by the early 19th century the systematic excavation of ancient Greek sites brought forth a plethora of sculptures with traces of multicolored surfaces. Some of these traces are still visible to the naked eye even today, though in most examples the remaining color has faded or disappeared entirely once the statues were exposed to light and air. In spite of this overwhelming evidence for painted statues, influential art historians such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann so strongly opposed the idea of painted Greek sculpture that proponents of painted statues were dismissed as eccentrics and their views largely dismissed for several centuries. It wasn't until published findings by German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann in the late 20th century and early 21st century that painted Greek sculptures became an established undeniable fact. Using high intensity lamps, ultraviolet light, special cameras, plaster casts and certain powdered minerals, Brinkmann was able to scientifically prove that the entire Parthenon, including the actual structure as well as the statues, was in fact painted. He furthermore was able to reveal the pigments of the original paint and has created several painted replicas of Greek statues that are currently on tour throughout the world. Also in the collection, are replicas of works from other Greek and Roman sculptures showing that the practice of painting sculpture was wide spread and in fact the normative practice rather than the exception in Greek and Roman culture.
Image found at Miss Folly, via.

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