Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Colors of Ancient Marble Statues

A free exhibition at Stanford University reveals the bright colors that once covered the ancient sculptures of Greece and Rome.  From the Stanford Report:

With the silent attentiveness of a physician, Ivy Nguyen passes her hands over the recumbent white lady in the darkened lab. She cradles a handheld black light in her fingers.

Under the Stanford sophomore's skillful watch in the Cantor Arts Center lab, long-dead colors on marble come alive after two millennia.

The results of Nguyen's painstaking efforts are on display in "True Colors: Rediscovering Pigments on Greco-Roman Marble Sculpture" at the Cantor. The exhibition runs until Aug. 7. Admission is free.

Though we still think of ancient Greece and Rome in terms of white marble sparkling under a hot Mediterranean sun, the new exhibition shows at least one Greco-Roman lady as she was meant to be seen – in Technicolor. Not everyone may take to Stanford's painted lady, but first impressions can change. "It's very different – some have called it kind of garish," admitted sophomore Nguyen, but she confesses that she's gotten used to it.

We've always known that ancient statues were painted: The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a vase, circa 360-350 B.C., depicting a man painting a statue of Herakles. The most important evidence is on the statues themselves – traces of paint that time did not wash from the creases and crevices in porous marble.

The full story includes a photo and a video.

HT: Joe Lauer

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1 Comments:

  • Todd,

    I was catching up on your blog posts this morning and this one jogged my memory. My son and I attended an exhibition at Harvard's Sackler Museum in 2008 (http://www.harvardartmuseums.org/exhibitions/past/detail.dot?id=17891) that covered painted statuary dating back into the Babylonian and Assyrian period. I'm afraid that Stanford is more than a bit late to the discovery party.

    Paul Hull

    By Anonymous Paul Hull, at Mon Apr 04, 12:02:00 AM  

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