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  #1  
Old 09-12-2007, 02:11 AM
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Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

Do you think it is better to see these marbles in full colors?

I'm afraid the other color restorations I've seen make them a bit like Disneyland statues.

Fear and fury among the Marbles

12 Sept 2007, BBC News, The Elgin Marbles in the British Museum are marvellous - but they're a bit, well, colourless, aren't they?

That isn't how it was for the ancient Greeks. The sculptures were painted in vivid colour. High up on the sides of the Parthenon temple in Athens, they had to be.

Now a new film on permanent show in the room next to the Marbles adds the colour - and the fear and the violence.


"When we started to apply the colour it brought a lot of the emotion to life," says Dyfri Williams, Keeper of Greek and Roman Antiquities at the British Museum.

The film reconstructs one of the metopes - the 92 carved fight scenes that ran around the outside wall - using computer technology.

"What you probably hadn't been able to see" in the scene of a centaur hitting a youth with a pot has finally come alive, says Mr Williams.

"The madness of the centaur comes out and the terror of the youth comes out.

"We hope to put that little film into our internet site - the message about colour on the sculpture is so important; it changes people's perception so much that we should have it there." ....
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  #2  
Old 09-13-2007, 07:05 PM
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

Unfortunately, the image with your post strikes me that it not only is painted, but also was produced by some sort of computer reconstruction. That is, the shape itself looks artifically smooth, sort of what might be expected in a modern cartoon (current use, not art-historical).
I checked your reference URL, and they have the same image - no enlargement possible. That source gives a reference to a further reconstruction effort, but with no better image material.
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  #3  
Old 09-14-2007, 10:40 AM
mountshang mountshang is offline
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

Yes, that cartoonish image shown above is awful.

What's really needed is a full-scale re-performance of the entire temple --
not with plaster casts of the damaged originals (like the reproduction found in Nashville) - but with new carvings carefully based on them -- re-designing those areas that have been lost.

This would be, of course, an enormous project -- taking decades to complete -- beyond the ability of any living sculptors -- and costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

But didn't the original temple also call for that kind of enormous commitment ? And even if there's nobody today who could re-design some of the ruined sections -- once the project got going -- I suspect that a few young people of great natural ability would eventually appear.

I know it sounds crazy -- but wouldn't this project be similar to what symphony orchestras (and the music schools that feed them) have been doing for over a century -- for the reconstruction of the great monuments of classical music ?

All it really takes --- is something like a billion dollars. I don't have it -- but some people do -- and when the project is complete, the greatest benefit will not be the reconstructed Parthenon itself -- but it will be the pool of skilled,
beauty loving sculptors (and critics) available to rebuild the visual culture of the modern western world.

********************************************


but until that happens --- here's a nice set of photos of Parthenon sculpture:


http://www.flickr.com/groups/greek-marbles/pool/page4/


Believe it or not -- but this sculpture actually is difficult to find in good reproductions (I've been spending some days at the Ryerson Library looking for it recently) Academic art historians mostly have no eye for lighting and photographing sculpture -- and art museums have no interest in making good, large jpg's freely available to the public. (the National Gallery of London charges over $200/ picture)

And if any of you have cameras -- I wish you'd go to some of these museums (where you're allowed) and start shooting !
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Old 09-14-2007, 11:41 AM
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

I have to clarify further on my comment on the color restoration statues which I found disappointing. These are proper restoration works based on research which I saw in person in an Athens museum.

On the other hand, there is a good example of an ancient sculpture in color. This is the famous Queen Nefertiti bust, see below.


Does anybody know why the colors on this bust have not faded away?
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Last edited by Merlion : 09-14-2007 at 12:04 PM.
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  #5  
Old 09-14-2007, 07:29 PM
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

mountshang:

Thanks for the photos link, as well as the reconstuction idea. That would sure be worth doing. I have a plaster fragment of the Parthenon frieze in my studio. Seeing such works up close is a real soul-stirrer. To be involved with faithfully carving them would be a tremendous gift of educational opportunity for a generation of sculptors, and would do a lot to focus the world's attention on the marvels of civilization. What a great time-out from all of the focus on its destruction!

As for why the Nerfertiti bust's colors have not faded away, it really depends on the circumstances of its burial/preservation. In a dry climate, buried away from much exposure to the elements, it can remain relatively safe. I have a Neolithic Chinese funerary jar, 4-5,000 years old, excavated during their dam project. The paint on it looks rather fresh in some places. Better than the paint I applied to the rust on my car last year, where there is quite a bit of exposure to the elements in all of their extremes.

Last edited by GlennT : 09-14-2007 at 07:40 PM.
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  #6  
Old 09-14-2007, 09:02 PM
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

Here is an article about ancient Greek statues and restoring original colors on some of them. It is from the Museum of Classical Archaeology, University of Cambridge.

The Peplos Kore

The Peplos Kore is the best known exhibit in the Museum of Classical Archaeology. It is a plaster cast of an ancient Greek statue of a young woman (kore means young woman or girl in ancient Greek), wearing a garment called a peplos. She is painted brightly as the original would have been, which was set up on the Acropolis in Athens, around 530 BCE. ....

In 1975, the Museum acquired a plaster cast of the sculpture. As the Museum already had one, the Curator, Robert Cook, decided to restore the second cast and paint it to appear as we believe the original did. As so little paint remains on the original, the restored version does not claim to be exactly right; indeed, recent scientific analysis suggests that the paintwork may have been even more elaborate, and may have gone through a number of different designs. ....


Nineteenth century notions of the Classical Ideal made it hard for many people to accept that ancient Greek sculpture really was brightly coloured. Some neoclassisists, praising the pure white beauty of bare marble and the austere nobility of the architecture, were really imposing nineteenth century aesthetics and morality onto ancient Greek culture. Thus the acceptance of coloured sculpture was retarded. This resistance still lingers today: many museum visitors are shocked, horrified even, to see the blues and reds of the Peplos Kore. One memorable comment in the Visitors' Book was "Didn't like the Painted Woman".

The Peplos Kore is 1.18 metres tall and made of Parian marble. It was made around 530 BCE. The original is in the Acropolis Museum in Athens (Acr. 679) and the traces of paint can still be seen, although they have faded since the statue was excavated from a pit by the Erechtheum on the Acropolis in 1884. ....

She wears a red garment called a peplos which is gathered at the waist and pinned at the shoulders. The peplos is decorated with a green and white patterned band at its edges and green trimmings. Under the peplos is a blue crinkly garment called a chiton. ....
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Old 09-15-2007, 06:53 PM
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

Merlion – Thanks for this Cambridge link to another painted early Greek work. That link provided still another one, http://mandarb.net/virtual_gallery/sculptures.shtml, to a Miami University, Ohio, site which has a virtual gallery of about a dozen (re)painted early Greek and Roman sculptures.

I checked only the Miami Kore, a different one from that at Cambridge. I like both the Cambridge and Miami painted virtuals better than the Parthenon “reconstructions” which started this thread, but the common Internet problem persists: these are transmitted images, dependent on scanning and reproduction in the user’s computer. Who really knows what they would look like in the real world?

(For the virtuals at Miami, there is little or no difference, but who really cares? It’s the physical world where these things matter.)
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Old 10-14-2007, 03:53 AM
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

This is a new online story from NY Times about an exhibition about restoring color to ancient Greek statues. Click into the link for pictures of unearthed and color restored statues.

One problem with these restoration efforts. They look childlike partly because they just show the colors at different parts of the statue. They do not show the variations in color tones and values in the originals if any.

That Classic White Sculpture Once Had a Paint Job

Oct 14, 2007, ....... “Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity,” an exhibition at Harvard’s Arthur M. Sackler Museum, displays more than a dozen reconstructions of Greek and Roman sculptures based on their work. Even for those who knew that the ancients tinted their statues, the effect is startling. Placed alongside original works from the Sackler’s collection, these reconstructions seem bright and brassy, vulgar and almost childlike in their high-key color and frilly detail.
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Old 10-14-2007, 08:19 PM
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

Thias sounds like a continuation of the tale we had above. That figure not only looks odd on color, but the nose in particular looks like a comedic parody. I suspect these "restorations, like the earlier ones, are done on computer screens.
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Old 10-14-2007, 11:49 PM
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

Fritchie, I think the one on top is a 3D model, an almost sure giveaway is the 100% hard shadowing, in real life there is always some diffuse due to ambient light and I don't see any there and the shadows don't match the specularity of the model itself. If it was done for film as a recreation it would be cheaper to hire a 3D artist and have them model and UV map, shade/texture it up in a week or so and provide views from any angle. The others are probably plaster casts, masked and airbrushed like pinatas.

Many of the Egyptian tombs were pillaged and their contents exposed, but not all. Some, perhaps Nefertiti here were found perfectly sealed with the original shading in-tact, easy to research I bet.

Whatever the case, I'm all for building the "Stevenon"... If someone would just provide me with 170 million in dimension marble and tools and a few hundred guys we'll have one whipped up in just a few years..

Look up "marble house" on Wiki and the great mansions of Rhode-Island and you'll see what I'm talking about... Some terrific reading about all that stuff and some remarkable stories. After the great Hurricaine of 1938? I think some of those suckers sold for 25k!
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Old 03-13-2008, 03:49 AM
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

I'm putting this news story here as they are about similiar things.

The Power of Color in Sculpture

Mar 12, 2008. Palisadian Post ... when we think of Greek and Roman sculpture, we automatically assume monochromatic forms to be the standard; the highest compliment. But most ancient sculpture was painted with vibrant colors that have faded over time.

In the new exhibition 'The Color of Life' at the Getty Villa, curators have assembled 40 works of art spanning 4,000 years to highlight the power of color from the ancient world to modern times.


The conventional assumption that classical sculpture must have been white has been reinforced in certain periods of art--particularly in the Renaissance and Neoclassic periods--as the paradigm of the ideal. ...

There is a widely held belief that color diminishes the essence of beauty in classical sculpture--the mastery of the chisel and the purity of material.

In the 18th century, David d'Angers' bronze statue of Thomas Jefferson was criticized for its dark patina, which gave the great statesman the skin tone of an African, Schmidt says. 'In the 19th and 20th centuries, monochromatic art was used to reinforce political ends. The fascist governments favored white marble as a symbol of the supremacy of the white race.'

And yet, as we learn in this exhibition, color has been used as a powerful adjunct in sculpture throughout the history of art.

Greek and Roman statues, carved in white marble or cast in bronze, were colored to achieve a heightened emotional response. ...

The exhibition continues at the Getty Villa through June 23. ...

For tickets to the Villa, call (310) 440-7300 or visit www.getty.edu.
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Old 03-13-2008, 03:22 PM
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ARGH!!!

These paint job photos in the virtual galleries are horrible.

That may just be my 'naked stone is beautiful' bigotry talking but as I looked at the images of the virtually painted figures and saw no improvements to the way in which these icons of art history 'worked' as sculpture I thought either the moderns who claim these statues were painted are crazy or the ancients had lousy taste (did the whole ancient world looked like Tijuana?).

I think the modern guys who say this stuff was painted are wrong
the statues look better without cartoon colors
they wind up looking like parade float stuff youd see high schoolers make with paper mache & chicken wire - all garish colors and alarming mistakes (but totally appropriate for the homecoming parade).

Why couldn't the ancients appreciate monochromatic sculpture (or natural materials/artifacts of patination) as being a sufficiently beautiful and tasteful presentation for sculpts? Those sculptors sure worked hard and took pains to get their realistic sculpts right only to risk having their beautifully expressive form covered up in a horrible paint job. Some pieces that integrate figures and decorative patterns lend themselves to a multicolor paint scheme while others practically demand the dignity of a single color in order to emphasize the appreciation of form. It could be that our modern ability to appreciate the simplicity of the base material and the form of a sculpture sans paint job is a kind of contrarian stance towards excess complexity in the real world (having a taste for abstraction could also be seen as placing a premium on selectively expressed essence over realistic detail which we routinely get overwhelmed by in modern life). So modern complexity and immersion in mass produced realistic/commercial imagery provokes an aesthetic rebellion where simplicity and purity (like monochromatic sculpture) becomes highly prized but perhaps the scarcity of realistic imagery in the ancient world led to a belief that an unpainted statue was simply unfinished. Maybe the ancients thought capturing the whole enchilada of 'perfect' realism in form and color was the ideal to strive for and what the public would be most impressed by - it's just they lacked the modern materials and techniques of Ron Mueck so their painted up sculpts wound up looking like creepy wax museum figurines/homecoming parade floats instead of perfect expressions of fleshy realism.

I think that maybe since the ancients were all about expressing 'ideal' manifestations of form (there are a lot more famous statues of heavily muscled and athletic looking people than of fat, skinny, ugly, or oddly shaped people) they could probably make the leap to appreciating ideal 'essence' in expressions of form where painting it up like a clown was deemed unnecessary.
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  #13  
Old 03-13-2008, 06:12 PM
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Re: Parthenon Marbles in Full Colors

I don't know about the marbles, but it's pretty clear from some of the physical objects in this display that at least some ceramic figures WERE painted. See http://getty.museum/art/exhibitions/color_of_life for a part of the Getty's own description of this exhibit. This head has a blue?! beard, reddish brown hair and, it is said, pinkish skin and lip tones.
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