Ancient Greece – painted sculptures

We are so used to seeing classical Greek statues in white marble or stone in museums and gallery that it is surprising to learn that it was most probably brightly coloured.  Even though we are surrounded by so much colour to our modern eyes  they perhaps appear garish rather like cheap tourist souvenirs from seaside holidays.

painted replica of archer

replica of a c. 490 B.C. archer (at the Parthenon in Athens)

(Smithsonian.com)

File:Alexander Sarcophagus.jpg

Alexander Sarcophagus original (Wikpedia)

a detail of Alexander the Great from the Alexander Sarcophagus

Re-coloured version (Smithsonian.com)

replica of a stele commemorating Aristion

Replica of a stele erected c. 510 B.C. on the grave of the Greek warrior, Aristion, commemorates his exploits in battle. He is dressed in yellow bronze or leather armor, a blue helmet (part of which is missing), and matching blue shinguards trimmed in yellow. (Smithsonian.com)

A German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann has spent the last 25 years recreating life size plaster or marble copies and hand painting them in the same mineral and organic pigments that would have been used in Ancient Greece.  I’ve printed off some articles I’ve found online to put in my logbook.  I also found these videos.

and this pdf  Gods in Color Gallery Guide Arthur M Sackler Museum Harvard  for an exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum in America in 2008.

As a textile student  I sometimes work in white or cream without the distraction of colour when I want to emphasize texture so I find the uncoloured version of more interest.   For instance in the Alexander Sarcophagus you can clearly see the drape of fabric whereas in the coloured version it doesn’t seem as strongly defined.

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One response to “Ancient Greece – painted sculptures

  1. I remember finding out something similar about the carvings in medieval churches – and seeing one (in York) which had been restored to its original colours – which was a bit of a shock! Can’t find anything online about the particular church I saw that in, but came across this, which is an example of the same sort of thing. http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2011/oct/13/churches-hidden-beauty-britain
    Ah! Found one of the ones I was remembering seeing! http://www.flickr.com/photos/13832652@N00/1743396356
    Amazing what reading people’s blogs sets you off looking for.

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