Reconstruction of the Riace Warriors

Reconstructions of the Riace Warriors (A and B), 2015-2016. Copies of the original: National Archaeological Museum, Reggio di Calabria, ca. 460 BC. Bronze cast, copper, colored stones, silver, Japan lacquer. Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Polychromy Research Project, Frankfurt am Main, acquired 2016 as gift from U. Koch-Brinkmann and V. Brinkmann. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco is hosting Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World, an exhibition that presents ancient sculpture to Bay Area audiences as never before: in vibrant color. The exhibition reintroduces ‘polychromy’ – the painting of sculpture to dazzling and powerful effect. Defying the idea of the stark white marble of antiquity, the installation is the result of over 30 years of groundbreaking research in pigmentation of ancient sculpture by international scientists and archaeologists. On view at the Legion of Honor are nearly 40 reproductions of well-known Greek and Roman artworks painted in brightly colored authentic pigments, uniquely juxtaposed with 30 statues and carved reliefs from ancient Egypt, the Near East, Greece, and Rome from FAMSF’s’ own holdings, supplemented with magnificent loans from Californian and European collections. 

Our visitors who imagine the classical world as stark and white will be shocked and startled to see antique sculpture in such bright and vivid colors,” says Max Hollein, Director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. “Gods in Color explains how ancient art and architecture is incomplete without color. White or monochrome sculpture would have been as strange to the ancients as the color reproductions in this exhibition might seem to us.”

Reconstruction (B) of a Cuirassed Torso from the Akropolis

Reconstruction (B) of a cuirassed torso from the Akropolis in Athens, 2005 Copy of the original: Athens, ca. 470 BC Plaster cast, gilt, with applied pigments in tempera Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Polychromy Research Project, Frankfurt am Main, acquired 2016 as gift from U. Koch-Brinkmann and V. Brinkmann ST.P686. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

When the idea of classicism took hold during the Renaissance, artists like Michelangelo and other masters hailed form and composition, instead of color, as the most prominent and venerable features of ancient sculpture. Over time, knowledge of color in ancient sculpture became all but forgotten and any evidence of polychromy was ignored. But even today, after millennia of burial and exposure to the elements, faint traces of color pigments on ancient sculptures can sometimes be detected with the naked eye. Additionally, advances in technology and research have allowed for an understanding of the evolution and extent of ancient polychromy. Techniques such as ultraviolet fluorescence photography and the examination of ancient pigments via ultra-violet-visible (UV-VIS) absorption spectroscopy have allowed an international team of archaeologists and scholars to create astonishing color reproductions. 

This exhibition reveals the power of color to enliven art. It is a meeting of the oldest objects in our collection, some over four millennia old, with the latest, state-of-the-art technology,” explains Dr. Renée Dreyfus, curator in charge of ancient art and interpretation for the Fine Arts Museums. “Through cutting-edge scientific investigation, ancient sculpture is brought back to its surprising splendor. This is a truly unique way to showcase FAMSF’s antiquity collection.” 

Reconstruction of the Riace Warrior A

Reconstruction of the head of the Riace warrior (A), 2013. Copy of the original: Reggio di Calabria, ca. 460 BC. Recast bronze, with applied pigments and additional elements. Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Polychromy Research Project, Frankfurt am Main, acquired 2016 as gift from U. Koch-Brinkmann and V. Brinkmann. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

This exhibition not only challenges the widely accepted ideal of achromatic ancient sculpture, it also addresses how this misconception has influenced the history of sculpture. Works from ancient Greece and Rome also are joined by sculptures from Egypt and the Near East to reveal a fuller range of polychromy from across the ancient Mediterranean world. 

Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World is the result of decades of research by Prof. Dr. Vinzenz Brinkmann and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann together with a group of archaeologists and natural scientists. Vinzenz Brinkmann is the original curator of the traveling Gods in Color exhibition and head of antiquities at the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection in Frankfurt where he worked with Hollein during Hollein’s ten-year tenure as director of the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection. The exhibition has traveled to some of the leading museums in the world, including the Vatican Museums, Rome; National Archaeological Museum, Athens; Pergamonmuseum, Berlin; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; and most recently to the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City. In San Francisco, it is being presented in its most recent version based on new research and reproductions.  

LG 157

Reconstruction B of a Trojan archer, 2005. Original: Greece, Aegina, ca. 480 BC; Glyptothek Munich. Copy: synthetic marble cast with natural pigments in egg tempera, lead, and wood, 37. in. (96 cm) height. Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection (Polychromy Research Project), Frankfurt, on loan from the University of Heidelberg, LG157. Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Today, a viewer sees classical European art in museums, but in antiquity these sculptures were placed in temples, public squares and necropolises where color was critical for understanding or “reading” these sculptures,” says Vinzenz Brinkmann. ”We have been researching these phenomena for 35 years and have found a tremendous amount of traces of original colors. Our reproductions have created a very lively public debate worldwide.”  

The exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection, Frankfurt. The curator of the exhibition is Dr. Renée Dreyfus, Curator in Charge of Ancient Art and Interpretation at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in collaboration with Prof. Dr. Vinzenz Brinkmann for Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection. The exhibition is on view from October 28, 2017 – January 7, 2018.

Reconstruction of the Athena from the West Pediment of the Temple of Aphaia on Aigina

Reconstruction B of Athena, 2005. Original: Greek, Aegina, ca. 480 BC; Glyptothek Munich. Copy: Plaster cast with natural pigments in egg tempera, 67 in. (170 cm) height. Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection (Polychromy Research Project), Frankfurt, ST.P689A. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Reconstruction (C) of a Crouching Lion from Loutraki

Reconstruction of a lion, 2005/2012. Original: Greek, Loutraki, ca. 550 BC; Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen. Reconstruction: plaster cast with natural pigments in egg tempera, 23 5/8 in. (60 cm) height. Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection (Polychromy Research Project), Frankfurt, inv. no. ST.P688. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Getty_Lion

Statue of a Crouching Lion; Unknown; Greece (Attica); about 350 B.C.; Marble; 36.7 × 20.3 × 92.1 cm (14 7/16 × 8 × 36 1/4 in.); J. Paul Getty Museum. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Gods in Color_Chios-koren

Reconstruction (A1) of the so-called Chios kore from the Akropolis in Athens, 2012. Copy of the original: Athens, ca. 500 BC. Crystalline acrylic glass, with applied pigments in tempera. Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Polychromy Research Project, Frankfurt am Main, acquired 2016 as gift from U. Koch-Brinkmann and V. Brinkmann. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

Gods in Color_Peplos Koren

Reconstruction B of the Peplos Kore, 2005. Original: Greek, Athens, ca. 530 BC; New Acropolis Museum, Athens. Reconstruction: plaster cast with natural pigments in egg tempera, 53 1/2 in. (136 cm) height. Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection (Polychromy Research Project), Frankfurt, inv. no. ST.P687. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Reconstruction (A) of the North Frieze of the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi

Reconstruction of the north frieze of the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi, 2016/2012. Copy of the original: Delphi, ca. 520 BC. Plaster caste, natural pigments in egg tempera. Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Polychromy Research Project, Frankfurt am Main, acquired 2016 as gift from U. Koch-Brinkmann and V. Brinkmann. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Simone Pomardi Painted Ornament of the Interior Cornice of the Cella

Simone Pomardi, "Painted ornament of the interior cornice of the cella," 1805. Watercolor. Inscribed by Edward Dodwell in pen and ink at bottom: “Volume I—S. Pomardi del” [underlined] / Ornament painted on the Cornice of the Parthenon within the Cell / “Reduce this four times” [underlined] p. 1805— / Cop.” The Packard Humanities Institute. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Reconstruction (A) of Theseus Abducting Antiope from the Pediment of the Temple of Apollo aphnephoros at Eretria

Reconstruction of Theseus abducting Antiope from the pediment of the Temple of Apollo Daphnephoros, 2005. Copy of the original: Archaeological Museum, Eretria, ca 490 BC. Plaster cast, natural pigments in egg tempera. Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung, Polychromy Research Project, Frankfurt am Main, acquired 2016 as gift from U. Koch-Brinkmann and V. Brinkmann. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Parthenon

Edward Dodwell, "Parthenon, Western Pteron, Looking South," 1805. Watercolor. The Packard Humanities Institute. Image Courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Dodwell_Parthenon

Edward Dodwell, "Parthenon from the Southeast," 1805. Watercolor. The Packard Humanities Institute. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Pomardi_Erechtheion

Simone Pomardi, "Western end of the Erechtheion from the Southwest," 1805. Watercolor. The Packard Humanities Institute. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

FAMSF_Torso of Hermes

Torso of Hermes, After Polykleiots. Roman, 2nd century AD. Pentelic marble. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Gift of Vincent Price. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

FAMSF_Red-figured Volute Krater

Red-figure volute krater, Southern Italian, Apulia, ca. 330–320 BC. Baltimore Painter. Terracotta. Side A: Mourning Achilles visited by the goddess Iris. Side B: Deceased hero sitting in a naiskos (small shrine). Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Museum purchase, Dorothy Spreckels Munn Fund. Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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 Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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 Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. 

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Installation view of "Gods in Color: Polychromy in the Ancient World" at the Legion of Honor. (Photo - Drew Altizer Photography). Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.