Greek Statues Were Once Covered in Colorful Paint

Kirstin Fawcett
Marsyas, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5
Marsyas, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5 / Marsyas, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.5

Today, the marble statues that once adorned Greek palaces and temples are pale white. But thousands of years ago, they were covered in colorful paint. To envision how these sculptures looked when they were first made, German classical archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann creates full-color scale replicas of ancient effigies decorated in hues of purple, gold, pink, red, and blue.

As IFL Science reports, the statues’ original colors are a mystery, but archaeologists can use a technique called “raking light” to identify which areas were once painted. By illuminating statues with an angled lamp, they can see which sections of the statue are eroded, and which aren’t. The areas that are less worn down were once coated in pigment, which provided protection from atmospheric conditions.

In the the video below from the Getty Museum, you can watch Brinkmann examine the marble sculptures of Athena and Paris from the Temple of Aphaia, which now sit in the Glyptothek museum in Munich, Germany. By reimaging the sculptures' former colors and patterns, Brinkmann helps bring the classical treasures into an entirely new—and far more historically accurate—light.


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