This Is What Ancient Greek Statues Used To Look Like In Color

A replica of the original 'Archer' from the western pediment of the Temple of Aphaia. Marsyas/Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 2.5

Greek statues never used to be so pale. When they were originally painted, they were adorned with vivid hues and bright colors, but it’s hard for most to imagine quite what this would have looked like. However, using a mixture of techniques, archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann has produced a few recreations of what some ancient statues would probably have looked like.

After analyzing real-life statues, scaled replicas were manufactured and hand-painted to resemble their original counterparts, and it’s safe to say they would have been a little on the garish side. Bright purples, golds, pinks, reds, and blues are particularly prominent, and some examples look like they’ve been thrown up on by a parade of saccharine gummy bears.

There are multiple methods that allow archaeologists to peer back in time and visualize such magnificent works of art as they were originally intended to be seen. One such technique is known as “raking light”.

By carefully angling a lamp and zooming in on the fine indentations and marks still remaining on these statues thousands of years after they were first sculpted, beady-eyed researchers can see areas where paint used to be. As it turns out, the extra layer of paint prevented wind and time from eroding these segments as much as thinly painted or non-painted areas, and as a result, they are raised.

Although the original paint color cannot be determined using this technique, patterns of paint can be, and that’s a good start.

Gods in Color. Getty Museum via YouTube

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