Pigment Busters

Following my ‘Searching for Colour!’ post, I got a few questions from family, friends and colleagues asking why we were actually looking for colour on our ancient marble sculptures.

We were looking for colour pigments on the marble sculptures because in ancient times most would have been coloured in some way! It seems inconceivable to us that these beautiful white marble sculptures could ever have had paint on them. But they often did. (Sounds gaudy, doesn’t it?) Sometimes, only details were painted; other times, they were completely covered by pigments or maybe part of them would have been gilded (covered in gold leaf). Or even perhaps have parts carved from coloured marble and assembled as one sculpture. This applies to Egyptian and other ancient sculpture as well (although those are not necessarily carved from marble).

Most ancient marble sculptures are now devoid of colour, the sun and rain having bleached or washed them away over the millennia. Thought to be ‘white,’ these ancient marble sculptures were the inspiration for statues carved during the Renaissance or the Neo-Classical period and those were NOT painted. That’s how we normally think of marble sculptures… white, the typical colour of marble. However, in nooks and crannies, you can occasionally find proof that coloured pigments were applied to those sculptures—in some cases visible with the naked eye.

During the two intense weeks of Classical marble study (and using various methods), Mark, Elizabeth, Noelle, Marianne and I went pigment busting…


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