Archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann and his wife Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, with the assistance of high-intensity ultraviolet raking light and Infrared Spectroscopy, claim that they have uncovered the original coloring of Greek sculptures.
What we so typically associate in our minds with the words “Greek sculpture” is typically a smoothed marble creation in stark-white that exudes an understated level of sophistication and simple mastery of the Greek culture.
Ultraviolet raking light has historically been used with pieces of art to highlight minute details light like brush strokes hand prints or other sub-structure details that are lost in natural light. What Brinkmann has done is apply this same technique to the Greek sculptures and claims that he has uncovered the original coloring that the sculptures were painted in.
Unfortunately, the exact details on how he has come to these color-conclusions are vague. Brinkmann has narrowed down the color palette to colors that would be available at that time, in that location, but as far as how he discovered the original coloring to the actual portions of the sculptures is still fuzzy. On the Smithsonian post, some astute readers point out that with a statue suffering from 2,000+ years of wind and sun-blasted fading, discovering the original coloring (assuming there was any) has to be harder than just shining light on the thing and see what it “looks” like.
HarvardScience points out that the issue of “colored sculptures” came up as early as 1815 and has been consistently argued through the ages as the original state of the statues, not the stark-white are all so familiar with.
What looks kitchy and simplistic to us now, may have been a sign of Greek mastery of color and the arts 2,000 years ago.
Brinkmann’s work is part of a touring art exhibit called “Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity“.