It is well-documented that ancient Greek and Roman sculpture was generally painted in life-like colors. Similarly, buildings and architectural ornamentation were brightly colored. Therefore, the modern conception of the ancient city as an austere landscape of white marble, sprinkled with monochrome statues, is almost entirely false. This is a well-known fact, demonstrated by ancient paintings, mosaics, and descriptions by ancient authors - as well as by the abundant surviving statues that retain traces of their original pigmentation.
Nevertheless, it is difficult to imagine what the great works of art would have looked like in color, and how their impact would have differed from the impressively pale and remote-looking artifacts that we see today. But how can we evaluate and understand the ancient masterpieces without considering them in their original state, or something close to it? Could the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci be fully appreciated in black and white?
I will be posting some of my attempts to restore ancient sculptures to their original full-color glory. I am not an art historian, and my color choices may be inappropriate, both in terms of subect matter and the colors that were available to the ancients. However, I think that the results may be surprising. First impressions may be disappointing - the austerity and dignity of marble are replaced by the garish pinks of human flesh. The empty eyes that once seem to contemplate an ethereal Olympus now look at us directly. But in my opinion, the restorations bring us closer to the artists and the world they lived in.
You may also be interested in my black and white restorations of sculptural portraits of the Roman empresses.
(Left) Restoration of the Laocoon - Hellenistic group of uncertain date, approximately 8 feet tall,
discovered in the Domus Aurea - the palace of Nero in Rome
(Left) Restored portrait of Vipsania Agrippina (died AD 20), first wife of Tiberius,
from a monument in Leptis Magna, Libya