Ancient sculptures don bright colors

Talk about striking colors: red, green, blue and yellow, all blinding visitors in the National Archaeological Museum’s temporary exhibition hall where Munich’s «Gods in Color» show is now on display. How can it be? Take the peplos kore (veiled maiden), for instance, who, unlike her bareness in the Acropolis Museum, is now dressed in bright colors. Inaugurated last night, the new exhibition at the National Archaeological Museum will no doubt become the talk-of-the-town. Not solely due to its educational character, but also because of its color. Is this what ancient sculptures really looked like? Museum Director Nikos Kaltsas did not wish to present an exhibition based exclusively on replicas. That is why he asked the Glyptothek of Munich for 21 colored replicas, while the rest, which make up the bulk of the exhibition, stem from its own permanent collections. This is an educational show demonstrating that ancient sculptures were not limited to the white marble we see today. The exhibition was presented for the first time at the Munich Glyptothek in 2004, before traveling to a number of countries for about two years. The idea was born 17 ago and was based on research conducted by the University of Munich on the subject of the coloring on ancient sculpture. The results are far from the images of sculptures that emerge from excavations, or even later on, when their whiteness was highlighted in museum cases. Even those works which maintain fragments of color on the surface do not look anything like these pieces. «New research methods were developed in order to trace color remnants on ancient sculptures. This was followed by careful analysis, in order to reproduce the initial colors with as much accuracy as possible. When all this was achieved, color was added to replicas of well-known Greek and Roman sculptures,» said Kaltsas. It is a well-known fact that both ancient Greek sculptures and temples featured color, yet color remnants on some works today cannot do justice to their original appearance. «Gods in Colors» summarizes the findings of long-term analysis and research at the Munich Glyptothek’s ateliers – not to mention a different kind of aesthetic. «This exhibition confirms, once more, that what we know of the past is never really a given. Archaeological research is constantly developing through the adoption of new methods, whose aim is to get closer, if not reach, the truth.» National Archaeological Museum, 44 Patission, tel 210.821.7724. The exhibition runs to March 24.

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