This statue was originally painted. Left: Painted replica of Augustus of Prima Porta statue with pigments reconstructed for the Tarraco Viva 2014 Festival

A More Colorful Ancient Greece: Pigment Proves Classical Statues Were Once Painted

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Right: Original Trojan archer (so called “Paris”), figure W-XI of the west pediment of the Temple of Aphaia, ca. 505–500 BC.(Public Domain). Right: Polychrome reconstitution from the exhibition Bunte Götter.

Right: Original Trojan archer (so called “Paris”), figure W-XI of the west pediment of the Temple of Aphaia, ca. 505–500 BC.( Public Domain ). Right: Polychrome reconstitution from the exhibition Bunte Götter.( CC BY-SA 2.5 )

Colorful Discourse

The debate regarding color on Greek statuary was long and arduous for scholars before and during Johann Winckelmann's time. It had long been postulated that Greek statues were likely covered in paint; however the comical, clown-like reproductions produced made most researchers scoff and laugh. Thanks to Winckelmann, it is now certain that color was as important in ancient sculpture as any other aspects. The Greeks not only wanted to worship their gods and goddesses in gloriously perfect human forms; they wanted their gods to resonate with all the "colors of the wind".

Top image: This statue was originally painted. Left: Painted replica of Augustus of Prima Porta statue with pigments reconstructed for the Tarraco Viva 2014 Festival ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ). Right: Original Statue in White Marble, 1 st century AD. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

By Ryan Stone

References

Donohue, A.A. 2005. Greek Sculpture and the Problem of Description . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fowler, Harold North and James Rignall Wheeler. 1969. A Handbook of Greek Archaeology. Biblo & Tannen Publishers.

Guewitsch, Matthew. 2008. "True Colors." Smithsonian Magazine. Accessed May 23, 2017. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/true-colors-17888/

Gwertz, Ken. 2007. "Colorizing classic statues returns them to antiquity." Harvard Gazaette . Accessed May 22, 2017. http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2007/10/colorizing-classic-statues-returns-them-to-antiquity/

Marshall, Colin. 2016. "How Ancient Greek Statues Really Looked: Research Reveals their Bold, Bright Colors and Patterns." OpenCulture. Accessed May 24, 2017. http://www.openculture.com/2016/09/how-ancient-greek-statues-really-looked.html

Panzanelli, Roberta, Eike D. Schmidt, and Kenneth D. S. Lapatin. 2008. The Color of Life: Polychromy in Sculpture from Antiquity to the Present . CA: Getty Publications.

Reed, Christopher. 2007. "Ancients reborn in bright array." Harvard Magazine. Accessed May 23, 2017. http://harvardmagazine.com/2007/11/dazzlers-html

Sacks, David, Oswyn Murray and Lisa R. Brody. 2014. Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World . Infobase Publishing.

"Johann Joachim Winckelmann." Visual-arts-cork. Accessed May 23, 2017. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/critics/winckelmann.htm

Comments

Very interesting.
Thanks Ryan.

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