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'Gods in Color' returns antiquities to their original, colorful grandeur

June 25, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Artists in classical cultures were known to paint with a variety of hues -- a practice known as polychromy. So why do we always think of antiquities as colorless?

Although he was aware of the historical evidence that sculptures were once colorful (some discoveries even had some paint left on) he helped idolize whiteness.

"This exhibition introduces the message that sculptures were painted often with dazzling and garish colors, with reconstructions of what they might have looked like, based on the colors and pigments that were available at the time," Renee Dreyfus, a curator for the exhibition, said in a phone interview.

"We can also grind minuscule amounts of the original pigment, where present, and determine what its color was," Dreyfus said.

(Natural cinnabar, the most popular red color in the ancient world, for example, came from mercury. ) To make paint, the pigments were mixed with binders made from common items such as eggs, beeswax and gum arabic.

"Most people have no idea that the originals were colored, and they are astounded by the reproductions," said Dreyfus.

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