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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: "True Colors" Smithsonian Mag July 2008 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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Author Topic: "True Colors" Smithsonian Mag July 2008  (Read 1341 times)
4to2CentBCphilia
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« on: August 04, 2008, 07:36:28 am »

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/true-colors.html#

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moonmoth
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« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2008, 01:53:54 pm »

Coincidentally, I was in the Parthenon galleries (aka the Duveen gallery) in the British Museum today and I heard someone explaining to a group that the flat, uncarved areas were thought by some to have been painted maybe blue or red, to highlight the carvings.  He was also pointing out the holes where hooks would have been inserted to support reins, which would have been added as separate objects because they would not have been carveable. So, not only bright colours, but also added objects would have been designed into those statues.
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"... A form of twisted symbolical bedsock ... the true purpose of which, as they realised at first glance, would never (alas) be revealed to mankind."
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« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2008, 04:16:44 pm »

Everything you heard in the Duveen galleries, of course, is true.  I just posted a drawing (in COTD) of the young athlete adjusting his victory crown (evidenced by the point of attachment on the 'copies' and the position of the raised arm and by earlier reliefs showing young athletes adjusting their crowns): these crowns were made of bronze (for durability, I think) covered with gold leaf.  Made separately, even for the original bronze statue.
As for those Smithsonian colors and those on the Kassel replicas and on sundry casts in cast museums.  They usually are based on spectra of traces or sometimes on literary evidence--more or less.  They are gross.  Not too bright, not too dark or light, but ignorant.
The only ancient paint that would adhere to marble was encaustic; arguably, whether in Egypt or in Greece, encaustic (which contained not only pigment and beeswax but animal glue--like, from hooves) was invented for coloring architectural details.  Shortly, it also was used for coloring on marble statuary.  Yes, the Acropolis archaic statues were painted.  Yes, certainly, the Aegina pedimental figures were painted.  No, the colors didn't look like that!  No, they didn't look like the plaster casts tinted with water soluble colors.  Even the (these are a bit different) ancient Egyptian statues, fully colored, carved from limestone or wood, then coated with gesso, then painted, of which we have, for example the Scribe, Kay, Dyn. 5, in the Louvre.  Not poster-paint colors on Kay!
First, to eliminate the most egregious outrage: both Greeks and Etruscans adopted the Egyptian color code: red-brown for males, white or cream or pinkish cream for females.  Mediterraneans typically who spend time outdoors get very tan; pale, especially pink, was code for feminine.  A pink archer is appalling.  In Greek terms (I don't like it either, but that doesn't matter). 
Second, these yucky reconstructions don't show what colors look like in Mediterranean sunlight.  Saturated colors, necessarily mineral colors (vegetable colors fade), applied carefully, probably coated with beeswax, too--on three-dimensional, solid forms, modeled by full sunlight, later in the day by warm afternoon light.
Smithsonian's evenly graduated (abuse of Photoshop) cyan sky, the like of which I never saw in Athens, clearly betrays their taste.
Pat L.
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Steve Minnoch
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« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2008, 04:43:34 pm »

I've never doubted since I first heard or read it that most architecture/sculpture was painted.

But I have never seen a convincing restoration of painted sculpture... I just don't believe that artists so talented would put so little imagination into the colouring, that image looks just like a colour-by-numbers sculpture might be expected to come out.

Steve
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moonmoth
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« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2008, 02:00:21 am »

Oh, well, the Egyptian colour scheme was a lot easier on the eye, so I am pleased to hear that!  Much less garish and shiny.
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"... A form of twisted symbolical bedsock ... the true purpose of which, as they realised at first glance, would never (alas) be revealed to mankind."
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« Reply #5 on: August 11, 2008, 06:47:29 am »

Here are some more pictures and a very useful catalogue:
http://www.stmwfk.bayern.de/downloads/aviso/2003_4_aviso_40-45.pdf
V. Brinkmann – R. Wünsche (Eds.) Bunte Götter – Die Farbigkeit antiker Skulptur, Exhib. Catalogue München (2003)
Professor Brinkmann, who created the impressive reconstruction of the Aegina Paris which opened this thread, did a lot of research on this point. And the Paris reconstruction is very believeable. Once he showed me the original statue from the Aphaia temple with a special (UV?) lamp - the light highlighted the patterns of his clothes in a way you could see the fabric, of course without colour, but that is a matter of research and interpretation. It was a really impressive experience.

Frank
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4to2CentBCphilia
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« Reply #6 on: August 11, 2008, 09:16:37 am »

I am not so ready to dismiss Brinkmanns work so readily. If the article is carefully read, the paint by number vs evolved Rennassaince era painting techniques is discussed. Although Brinkmann admits that the more developed style was apparent in Roman times.

Such realistic detail is a far cry from the rendering of Paris the archer. In circa 490 B.C., when it was sculpted, statues were decorated in flat colors, which were applied in a paint-by-numbers fashion. But as time passed, artists taught themselves to enhance effects of light and shadow, much as Koch-Brinkmann was doing with Caligula, created some five centuries after the archer. The Brinkmanns had also discovered evidence of shading and hatching on the "Alexander Sarcophagus" (created c. 320 B.C.)—a cause for considerable excitement. "It's a revolution in painting comparable to Giotto's in the frescoes of Padua," says Brinkmann.



As far as the garsih appearance offending the eyes and expectations of the modern viewer, there is this

In the introduction to the catalog of the Harvard show, Brinkmann confesses that even he is a relatively recent convert to the idea that the painting of statues actually constituted an art form. "What that means," he elaborates, "is that my perspective has been molded by 20th-century classicism. You can't shake that off. It stays with you all your life. Ask a psychiatrist. You have to work very hard to adjust to a new way of seeing. But I'm talking about personal feelings here, not about scholarly conviction."




Finally, the hard copy has far more photos that help to make the points.

BR

Mark
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