For artists of the Renaissance, the key to truth and beauty lay in the past. Renaissance artists assiduously studied the sculptures and monuments of Greece and Rome and emulated them in their own work. The inspiration they found in those ancient models has echoed down the centuries, influencing the appearance of Western art and architecture to this day.
If those 15th and 16th century artists had looked more closely, however, they might have found something that would have changed their vision of ancient art and had a profound effect on their own practice. That element was color.
We now know that the unblemished white surface of Michelangelo’s “David” or Bernini’s “St. Teresa in Ecstasy” would have been considered unfinished according to classical standards. The sculpture and architecture of the ancient world was, in fact, brightly and elaborately painted. The only reason it appears white to us is that centuries of weathering have worn off most of the paint.
So entrenched has the association become between classical art and the look of white, unblemished marble, that the idea of an Athenian acropolis as colorfully painted as a circus wagon is difficult to imagine if not downright blasphemous. But now an exhibition at the Sackler Museum can help us envision what a color-drenched classical world might have looked like.
“Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity” features full-size color reconstructions that challenge the popular notion of classical white marble sculpture, illustrating that ancient sculpture was far more colorful, complex, and exuberant than is often thought.
The reconstructions are the result of more than two decades of painstaking research by a pair of married German archaeologists, Vinzenz Brinkmann and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann. The exhibition was organized by the Stiftung Archäologie and the Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek of Munich, Germany, and has already been shown in a number of European cities. The Sackler is its first U.S. venue…[See rest here]