White marble has generally been considered a typical image of antiquity. However, the lack of colour has no relation to ancient aesthetics. In fact, antiquity cultivated a veritable wealth of colours, but after centuries of deterioration, very little paint remains on the artefacts giving rise to the mistaken notion of white marble as a classical ideal.
Yet the knowledge that ancient art was polychrome does not mark the end of polychromy research. On the contrary: Now research of ancient polychromy can continue acquiring a more comprehensive and detailed knowledge of how the ancient world was coloured and why.
This website is dedicated to the research on the use of colour on sculptures and buildings in the ancient Mediterranean world carried out at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. This research is highly interdisciplinary including scholars in archaeology, philology, conservation science, geology, geochemistry, chemistry, and physics.
On this website you will find a short introduction to the field. But most importantly, the user has access to a database of literature on ancient polychromy and of artefacts in the collections of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek with traces of their original colouring.
New project: Sensing the Ancient World: The Multiple Dimensions of Ancient Art
The Carlsberg Foundation has generously funded a new interdisciplinary research project entitled Sensing the Ancient World: The Multiple Dimensions of Ancient Art. The project is being led by Dr. Cecilie Brøns and will run until 2021. In collaboration with Danish and international partners, the project is undertaking thorough investigations of the polychromy of ancient artworks using multispectral techniques and different natural scientific analyses. In addition, the project includes further, often invisible dimensions of ancient art such as the effect of light and the embellishment with textiles, ornaments, and flowers. By including the often inaccessible dimensions of antiquity, the research project aims to achieve a new, more inclusive, holistic understanding of the art of antiquity, starting in the collections of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.
For more information about the project, please click here
New examination of ancient Roman sculpture undertaken
Currently, Signe Buccarella Hedegaard is working on a marble sculpture of the goddess Cybele dating to the 1st-century BC. The original context of the sculpture was allegedly a private sanctuary dedicated to Cybele in connection with a private villa, which was placed a few kilometers outside Formiae in Campania. By thoroughly photographing the sculpture using multispectral techniques and microscopy, minute traces of paint are identified and documented.