UV light to reveal colours of ancient statuary?

An interesting article here via Dyspepsia Generation:

Original Greek statues were brightly painted, but after thousands of years, those paints have worn away. Find out how shining a light on the statues can be all that’s required to see them as they were thousands of years ago.

Something about this reporting — reproduced widely on non-scholarly sites — makes me nervous.  It’s not very coherent, and no sources are quoted, no researchers given.  The source for the images is supposed to be a certain Venzenz Brinkmann, and there is yet another non-scholarly item — a PDF — here.


8 thoughts on “UV light to reveal colours of ancient statuary?

  1. the research into ancient statue’s painting is a long one and the pictures shown in the article are all well known, the before/now picture of the Augustus Primaporta is shown in the Vatican museum next to the museum, the pictures of the Aegina archer and pediment are from some german researches from the mid 2000’s (if I remember well). I also know that the British Museum has been playing last year with an UV lamp on it’s ancient statues collection to specificaly look for ancient egyptian blue, but I don’t know if that specific research has been published yet.

  2. Dear Roger,

    thank you for your prompt reply to my email,
    (almost two weeks ago I’m sure you don’t remember all the details, nevermind)

    I’ve taken your advice and set to reading a bit of Eusebius for myself, interesting and reassuring from my perspective.

    I’ve also visited some of the information you’ve posted on the council of nicea, and am presently dabbling in the writings of Iraneous. It’s been helpfull, but in reallity just a starting point.

    I was thinking of commenting on your blog, however, It dosn’t really bear any light on the last post.Except for the fact that for me, after all those years of art history looking at statues in a certain way, the coloured versions seem quite garish to me, even if that’s how they started out, I think I prefer the more subtle weathered version, and after all it’s kind of a comment on change ,and life etc.

    In light of your recent flu,I’m hoping you’re ok.
    I’m sure it’s unreasonable but it’s sort of worried me that you haven’t posted in the last day, (of course that dosn’t account for you having a life)

    For some strange reason I’m continually drawn to checking in on what your up to……in blog space, you’re an inspiration to me,to visit new territory, and dabble in the previously unknown.(in an ancient litterary sense) Not to mention your refreshing sense of humour and strong sense of justice.

    Thank you Roger,I do hope your well and just enjoying a lazy Sunday with a favourite novel.

    Somehow you seem to me something of a solitary character, and although that’s in many ways absolutley fine, I know it can have it’s down side.Just hoping that you’ve got the support you need.

    Greetings from the opposite side of the world,

    cheers Jo Rosenblum.

    Jusr realised I’ve said all this in comment’s (sorry just moderate it.

  3. Logically, all that the statues would usually show would be the base coat. Greco-Roman painting on frescos and color on mosaics so forth is a lot more than just flat colors, so why do they show an artist’s rendering with flat color? Do they think nobody ever did anything beyond red and black vase painting???

    I was the world’s worst Dungeons and Dragons lead miniature painter back in 7th grade, but even I added highlights and shading to my eentsy-weentsy little statues. Sheesh.

  4. What particularly occurs to me is the lousy skin tones. Given the amount of delicate blushing and statues that looked ready to come to life that are described in Greek and Roman poetry, I’d assume that lifelike cheeks and lips would be an important part of your statuary painting.

  5. I too painted D&D figures in my irresponsible youth (as opposed to my irresponsible middle age), when I used to Dungeon Master a campaign. I still have them, upstairs in the loft somewhere.

    If we consider the Fayum portraits, these colourings do look dubious.

    I don’t know. I don’t think I’ll make any decision until I see a scholarly view of these reconstructions.

  6. Or the relevant scholars could get DeviantArt or one of the Photoshop sites to hold a “color the Greek statue on top of the base coat” contest. You might actually get a pretty good idea of the possibilities, and at any rate it would be entertaining. 🙂

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