Since the 15th century the West, using antiquity as a model, created sculpture and architecture in white marble. The aesthetic of the white marble has up until the end of the 20th century generally been regarded as a typical image of antiquity, but, in fact, the absence of colour is not correct. Quite the contrary: it turns out that antiquity cultivated a veritable wealth of colours. But after being buried in the ground for centuries, the colours on the ancient artefacts have perished and the notion of white sculpture and architecture has arisen.
At the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (NCG) in Copenhagen an interdisciplinary research project is investigating ancient polychromy in art and architecture. Combining the fields of classical archaeology, classical philology, ancient history and art history with conservation science, geology, chemistry and physics, the research team is addressing a range of rather complex questions regarding painting techniques as well as provenance, trade and distribution of pigments.
The lecture entitled “Transmission and Transformation: Ancient Polychromy in Sculpture and Architecture” by Signe Skriver Hedegaard, cand.scient.cons. and Cecilie Brøns, Project director, post.doc, PhD, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is an introduction to polychromy research as it is conducted at NCG providing an overview of the tools and methods currently available and an insight into the vast possibilities they entail as well as their potential to increase our knowledge of the ancient world.