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Tracking Colour - the polychromy of Greek and Roman sculpture

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Tracking Colour - the polychromy of Greek and Roman sculpture
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Greek and Roman marble statues were not set up in blazing white. They were colourful. We are now on the track of the colours that remain on sculptures in our collection.
The research project now under way in the Glyptotek is the first of its kind. The aim is to identify, document and study traces of colour on our Greek and Roman sculptures.

Ancient sculpture was colourful

Ancient written sources, as well as the evidence found on the works themselves, show that Greek and Roman sculptures were colourful. They were ‘polychrome’, ‘many-coloured’.
Works in stone were painted and sculptures in bronze stood in the colour of the metal, with details such as eyes, lips and teeth added in other coloured materials: ivory, copper, amber and silver among them. Statues were also made in silver, gold and ivory. And in Roman Imperial times, sculptors began using coloured marbles. During recent years, research on the polychromy of ancient sculpture has increased. But our knowledge is still very limited.

The Glyptotek project and the Copenhagen Polychromy Network

‘Ancient sculptural polychromy in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek’ is a project designed to systematically investigate our Greek and Roman stone sculptures for traces of colour. It is the first of its kind anywhere.
In-depth examination and understanding of colour traces require an interdisciplinary approach. Collaboration has therefore been established between the Glyptotek, the School of Conservation of the Academy of Fine Arts, the Institute of Chemistry at the Technical University of Denmark and the Museum of Geology/The Natural History Museum of Denmark. We call this partnership ‘The Copenhagen Polychromy Network’.

Preliminary Report 1, 2009
Preliminary Report 2, 2010
Preliminary Report 3, 2011
Preliminary Report 4, 2012

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