Monday, May 05, 2008

A more colorful past

Years ago, shortly after I stopped taking classes at UCLA and was living and working in West L.A. (late '60s), an oil-rich Arab bought one of the grandiose houses along Sunset Boulevard, and had the marble sculptures on the part of the grounds that bordered the heavily-traveled boulevard painted, in somewhat gaudy colors. Everyone I knew who passed by and gaped marveled at the sheer tastelessness of the display. Everyone knew that marble statues were intended to be white, for heaven's sake!

Well, maybe not so much. As the WaPo notes, "A flood of recent exhibitions has set out to put their color back." It turns out that some recent scholarship indicates that the Greeks routinely painted their sculptures to make them more accurate representations, the ideal of Greek art. When the statues began to be discovered in the 1500s and beyond, they were generally pretty pure white, but perhaps it was because the paint had worn off. Recent detection methods show evidence of statues having been painted.

Exhibitions of reproductions of ancient statues (they haven't done it to the originals as far as I can tell) tarted up with paint have been seen in Amsterdam, Athens, Basel, Boston, Copenhagen, Istanbul, Munich and Rome. Now there's an exhibition at the Getty Villa in Malibu. I might just try to get over there and see it.

No comments: