Ancient statues reveal their ‘little white lie’

It?s often missed that those stark white statues built by the ancient Greeks were, in fact, brightly painted.

Now, many years after their colors were lost to the wear and tear of time, the Acropolis Museum in Athens is giving visitors a chance to find out more about how these pieces of sculpture looked back in their day.

The museum, which sits across the Parthenon at the heart of the capital city, has launched an event aimed at educating the public about the conceptualization of color and color techniques used in the ancient world. Attendees are also informed on contemporary methods used to reveal how these artifacts really looked and are invited to explore the digital simulation technologies used by art restoration and conservation experts.

The ancients, the experts tell us, did not just use color for decoration. Colors were, in fact, used to signify status. The ancients liked to portray their gods with a blond strands of hair — a symbol of power. Warriors and athletes were usually painted in dark colors which was a sign of virtue and bravery. Finally, the kores, which were among the first ancient Greek sculptures of females, were depicted as having very pale skin in order to emphasize the delicacy of their young age.

Experts studying the color palette of antiquity are drawing from many different scientific disciplines while making use of spectroscopic analysis and hi-tech image-capturing devices. Scientists, who also depend on information from surviving ancient texts, are trying to reproduce the archaic colors and paint them on Parian marble.

The clear, saturated colors of the statues, offset by brightly colored clothes and curvaceous bodies, combined with the rich jewelry and long tresses arranged in scalloped locks, all combined to give these ancient sculptures the unrivaled grace for which they are still admired.

Exhibition organizers also have special classes for kids with games and the painting of a replica of the Peploforos, one of the kores on display at the Acropolis Museum. Meanwhile, visitors can take some of the experience back home by using the museum?s online interactive program at

Presentations are held daily at 12 p..m (in English) and 1 p.m. (in Greek). The Acropolis Museum is situated near the Acropolis metro station, 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou Street. For more information, call 210.900.0900.