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Statue of the so called ’sciarra’ amazon

Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek


This report presents the work on a Roman marble ‘ideal sculpture’ of the 2nd century CE from the collection of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. The work is undertaken to investigate traces of original paint on the sculpture. The sculpture represents a wounded Amazon and is considered to be a Roman marble copy of a Greek bronze original from the mid 5th century BC. The marble has been identified by isotopic analysis as Pentelic. For this study, the polychromy of the Amazon was extensively investigated following a standardized protocol comprising non-invasive techniques, as XRF in situ, ultraviolet and visible-induced luminescence imaging and invasive analytical methods, including Electron Microprobe Analysis (EMPA) and petrographic microscopy of cross sections. The sculpture was completely polychrome using a complex mixture of pigments, and selected pigments for specific areas, were used to create subtle tonal variation. These included: red and yellow ochre and Egyptian blue for skin tones; a pink organic colourant for blood drops; lead white and Egyptian blue for the eyeballs and haematite, yellow ochre and Egyptian blue for the hair. The investigation has proved able to provide important information on Roman painting techniques

Description of object

This Amazon wears a short tunic with two belts, one visible, one not. The tunic is secured over one shoulder, revealing both breasts. On her feet she wears leather thongs around her heels and up over the insteps. With her right hand she touches her head thus permitting us to see that she is bleeding from a cut under her arm. The Sciarra Amazon has been restored several times and has a long and complex acquisition history. The right hand, which once rested on the crown of the head, the left arm and the shoulder are all missing. Its provenance is unknown but it is likely to have come from Italy in the area around Rome. The right arm has been broken at the elbow, and there is a crack over the left shoulder and breast, which continues on the back, as well as a crack through the lower torso. The legs and feet have been reassembled from various fragments, and a displacement between the parts below the left knee is due to the work in the course of the earlier restoration. A small area under the breast has been restored in plaster. The head is in perfect condition despite a crack which runs from the hair down past the right eye to the chin. The face seems to have been cleaned more than the rest of the sculpture. The overall impression of the surface of the sculpture is that it is covered with incrusations, discoloration, smaller breaks and repairs. The rear of the sculpture appears less cleaned that the front and it looks as if the incrusations have acted as a protective layer for the pigments.

Choice of methods

Visual examination

  • Macroscopic
  • Microscopic in situ

Technical imaging

  • UV
  • VIL


  • Cross section
  • Microscopy
  • EMP
  • XRF
  • GC-MS

Marble identification method

  • Pentelicon provenance

Visual examination

Visual examination: In situ microscopy of the surface shows traces of four different colours used for skin tones, mostly red and blue but also pink and a few traces of yellow. The different pigments used for skin tones only exist as minute traces located side by side. The pigments are found in all areas of exposed skin; most clearly-defined on the feet where red is clearly visible to the naked eye. The majority of the pigments are found where the marble surface is covered in incrustation as seen on the calves and the back of the sculpture. As a rare exception, groups of blue grains are visible, but in most cases the pigment exists only in minute amounts. The blue colour varies from greyish blue to clear, shining blue. The hair seems to have been painted mostly a yellow/orange colour which is well preserved while smaller traces of red and blue might have acted as shadows. The red particles have a very intense dark red colour and correspond to the optical characteristics of hematite. The yellow/orange colour looks like a mixture of both yellow and a few red particles. The eyeballs were painted using white, blue and red. The white and blue are located in the sclera of the eyeballs while the red is found in the iris. The few particles of blue pigment were probably mixed with lead white to achieve a brighter white. Red is found in the area of the eyebrows, though there appears to be no method to its application. The visual examination also reveals small traces of red on the lips and on the face. Despite the few traces of red on the face and the pigments observed in the eyes, the overall impression of the surface is that the face has been deeply cleaned. Red and blue seem to dominate the colours of the tunic. The majority of the grains of blue pigment are distributed around the lower part of the dress while the red grains are more evenly distributed. Larger concentrations of red can be observed with the naked eye on the belt on the front of the sculpture on the ankle straps and on the chiton below the belt on the back of the sculpture. On the left foot and in the incisions of the ankle strap a few traces of blue are found. The foot pillar between the left foot and the base has well-preserved traces of red which are easily visible to the naked eye.

Technical imaging

UV-FL: The UV-FL image shows a complex picture of the Amazon. The photographs distinguish the difference between original material and subsequent restorations. Orange and white-blue fluorescence seem to dominate the surface of the sculpture while repairs and restorations appear as dark violet areas. Under the right arm where the pink is found in the area showing the carved blood drop a strong pink-orange fluorescence appears suggesting that the pink pigment is an organic colourant.

VIL: The evaluation of the presence of luminescence is carried out by comparison with a 99 % reflectance standard from Spectralon®. The blue found in various locations is identified as Egyptian blue by the VIL-imaging. On the skin the pigment is, in the main, present on the surface as scattered particles but in some places it is more concentrated as observed in the area showing blood drops on the shoulders and the back of the legs. VIL-imaging reveals a small concentration of particles of Egyptian blue in the right eye located in the sclera of the eyeballs. Along the lower part of the chiton runs a bright glowing band, most sharply defined at the front and on the back. On a break of the surface above the right thigh small particles are observed. It is most likely that the pigment has been shifted from the surrounding areas to the surface of the break. The VIL-image of the left foot shows a defined band glowing on the flat surface of the instep and in the incised edges of the ankle strap, giving the viewer the impression that the sculpture is wearing sandals. In this area only a minute amount of the blue pigment was observed with the microscope and only as small single particles. This means that the VIL reveals information on the pigment at a sub-microscopic level. The result came as a big surprise since nothing is visible to the naked eye and nothing in the carving indicates the presence of a sandal thong.

Other types of investigation

*Sampling*A sampling strategy was developed on the basis of the preliminary investigation. Five samples are taken with a surface area of circa 0.25-1 mm2. Some of the samples are prepared for cross section while others are left for subsequent analysis

Sample 1 supposed modern pink on the backside of the left thigh Sample 2 white from the left eye Sample 3 white from the right eye Sample 4 red/yellowish from the front of the hair Sample 5 red/yellowish from the back of the hair Sample 6 red from the foot pillar under the left foot Sample 7 red from the tunic below the belt on the back side of the sculpture

Cross-section Sample 5 mainly consists of two layers with the greater part of the sample being a compact white layer on top of a thin orange layer.” Sample 6 consists of two layers with a whitish, semi-transparent layer on top of a red layer placed in a compact white matrix. Sample 7 shows a one-layer structure with a intense red/orange layer with large black and red grains placed directly on top of the marble.

Micro Probe analysis (EMPA)All the samples are carbon-coated and prepared for EMPA. The samples taken from the hair are identified as yellow ochre while the red particles are probably hematite. The red pigment on the foot pillar and on the tunic is identified as red iron oxide (FeOOH). The white from the left eye showed a lead (Pb) content and a smaller vanadium (V) content, representing the use of lead white.

*XRF: * Selected areas have been examined with a hand held XRF Red found on the the front of the belt, on the foot pillar and on the tunic below the belt all shows the presence of Iron (Fe) indicating the use of red iron oxide (FeOOH).

Marble identification method:The marble of the Amazzone is fine grained and exhibits high values of the EPR intensity and linewidth (related to the concentration of the manganese impurity) and a strongly negative value. These data are fully in line with the Pentelicon provenance suggested above, although at this qualitative stage other alternatives, such as Docimium marble from Afyon, cannot be excluded.


M. Moltensen (1979), ’En restaureringshistorie’ Meddelelser fra Glyptoteket, 36, 51-66.

M. Moltesen (2002), Imperial Rome II. Statues. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, 207-211, cat. no. 60.

F. Poulsen (1951), Catalogue of Ancient Sculpture in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, cat. no. 54.

M.L. Sargent & R.H. Therkildsen (2010), Research on Ancient Sculptural Polychromy with Focus on a 2nd Century CE Marble Amazon. Tracking colour. The polychromy of Greek and Roman sculpture in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Preliminary Report 2: (online: 27-49.

  • IN 1568
  • Statue
  • c. 150 C.E.
  • Roman Imperial
  • White marble. Pentelic
  • Bought in 1897 from the Palazzo Sciarra in Rome, formerly in the Palazzo Barberini, for which it was acquired in 1628 from Cardinal del Monte
  • Without plinth: H. 197 cm. With plinth: 217 cm. D. 52 cm

Selected photos

  • In1568_t_0
  • In1568_t_90
  • In1568_t_180
  • In1568_t_270
  • In1568_vil_d_0_dress
  • In1568_vil_d_45_leftfoot
  • In1568_vil_d_270_rightside
  • In1568_vil_d_180_dress
  • In1568_uv_t_0
  • In1568_mi_180_e2_x52
  • In1568_mi_270_f7_x52
  • In1568_mi_0_f16_x52
  • In1568_mi_0_f23_x52
  • In1568_mi_05_x20dic_0_33x0_44
  • In1568_mi_06_x20dic_0_33x0_44
  • In1568_mi_07_x50dic_0_13x0_17mm
  • In1568_sam_t_0_copy
  • In1568_sam_t_180
  • In1568_d_0_belt
  • In1568_d_0_blooddrops
  • In1568_d_180_hair
  • In1568_d_270_footpillar
  • In1568_d_180_belt