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The purpose of this website is to develop a broader public awareness of polychromy studies. By using this online service you will be able to gain knowledge of the current research on polychromy at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. It is a resource dedicated to research on the use of colour on sculptures and buildings in the ancient Mediterranean world.

On this website you will find an introduction to the field. It also provides information on the history of polychromy scholarship and updated information on current research. The user has access to a database of literature on ancient polychromy and of monuments known to have traces of their original colouring.

Read more here: About

Transmission and Transformation: Ancient polychromy in an architectural context

The three-year research project is running until the end of 2016. The project is funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.

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. Besides the identification of pigments, this entails knowledge of e.g. technique, craftsmanship, and craft traditions. Postdoctoral fellow Cecilie Brøns is therefore heading up a new research project with a new grant from the Carlsberg Foundation – this time focusing on the colours of ancient architecture. The project is highly interdisciplinary including scholars in archaeology, philology, conservation science, geology, chemistry, and physics. It has its point of departure in the collections of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek and focuses among other things on Etruscan architectural terracottas and the synthetic pigment Egyptian blue.

Click here for the description of the project on the Carlsberg Foundation’s homepage.

Nyt foto af det neobabylonske dragerelief, Riccardo Buccarella

New publication in Heritage Science on the binding media and coatings of the Palace of Apries, Lower Egypt.
This study gives an account of the organic components (binders and coatings) found in the polychromy of some fragmented architectural reliefs from the Palace of Apries in Memphis, Egypt (26th Dynasty, ca. 589-568 BCE). Samples from the fragments were investigated using FTIR spectroscopy and GC–MS. The detection of polysaccharides in the paint layers on the capital and on two of the fragments indicates the use of plant gums as binding media. The interpretation of the sugar profiles was not straightforward so botanical classification was only possible for one fragment where the results of analysis seem to point to gum arabic. The sample from the same fragment was found to contain animal glue and a second protein material (possibly egg). While the presence of animal glue is probably ascribable to the binder used for the ground layer, the second protein indicates that either the paint layer was bound in a mixture of different binding materials or that the paint layer, bound in a plant gum, was then coated with a proteinaceous material. The surface of two of the investigated samples was partially covered by translucent waxy materials that were identified as a synthetic wax (applied during old conservation treatments) and as beeswax, respectively. It is possible that the beeswax is of ancient origin, selectively applied on yellow areas in order to create a certain glossiness or highlight specific elements.

The study is published in Heritage Science, open access:
Link to the article

The 8th International Round Table

The 15th-16th of November we are participating in the 8th International Round Table on Polychromy in Ancient Sculpture and Architecture which is hosted by Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France (C2RMF) in Paris. The conference is followed by a two-day workshop on the past 20 years of research on ancient Greek and Roman terracottas. The research project constributes with two papers by Dr Alexandra Rodler and Signe Skriver Hedegaard respectively.

Proteomics and polychromy

The 14th-16th of September, Assistant professor, Dr Luise Ørsted Brandt went to the highly prestigious conference on biomolecular archaeology, ISBA7 in Oxford. Here Luise presented the first results on proteins extracted from paint binders from ancient polychrome architecture.

Several papers on the analysis of proteineous residues were presented at the conference and there is no doubt that this topic will be studied intensively in the future. Next month project director Dr Cecilie Brøns and Dr Luise Ørsted Brandt will participate in the kick-off of a new network on precisely this topic (TEMPERA, DNRFs Centre for GeoGenetics, Copenhagen) and its future research and thus the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is represented at the forefront of protein research and biomolecular archaeology.

Presentation at the European Mineralogical Conference 2016

Dr Alexandra Rodler has recently represented the research project at the 2nd European Mineralogical Conference (EMC2016) in Rimini, Italy. Our contribution ‘Provenance of Copper Used for Egyptian Blue Pigments of Ancient Mediterranean Artefacts’ was presented on the 14th of September.

Article published in ‘Etruscan Studies’

Our examinations of the polychromy of the Etruscan antefixes in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek has been published in the latest issue of Etruscan studies, vol. 19, issue 1, May 2016. The article is entitled ‘Painted Faces: Investigations of Polychromy on Etruscan Antefixes in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek’.

Guest lecture at the Danish Institute at Athens

Dr Cecilie Brøns and Signe Skriver Hedegaard have been invited to give a lecture on polychromy research at the Danish Institute at Athens. The lecture is entitled ‘Transmission and Transformation: Ancient Polychromy in Sculpture and Architecture’. It will take place Monday the 23rd of May at 7 PM in the auditorium of the institute, Herefondos 14A, Plaka, Athens.