(from here) Antiquity was white – as white as marble! For hundreds of years this fact has been one of the mainstays in the story of the origin of Western culture: and it remains firmly anchored in the notion we still have of our own culture today. This autumn’s major special exhibition at the Glyptotek turns the idea of the white world of Antiquity upside down and shows that Greek and Roman sculpture were colourful to a degree.
Michelangelo and Thorvaldsen in colour? At first the thought seems absurd. But if they and other artists had been aware that the white marble of Antiquity was merely a tenacious myth, Western figurative art would probably have looked radically different. With some 120 original works and reconstructions, among them a large number of outstanding loans from museums in Denmark and abroad, the Glyptotek exhibition demonstrates that Antiquity was anything but sceptical of colour.
The exhibition traces the outline of the fascinating story of the development of colour from Greek to Roman sculpture. At the same time the thread is traced back to the better known use of colour in Egypt. And last, but not least, the exhibition points the way forward to some of the exceptions in later Western sculptural art, in which, resistance notwithstanding, polychromy gained a foothold.
From microscopy to the history of ideas
This autumn’s major special exhibition presents the results of the noteworthy, pioneering research undertaken by an international network of specialist teams - with the Glyptotek as an important contributor. In 2004 the museum presented an exhibition dealing with polychromy in ancient sculpture, shown first at the Glyptothek in Munich, and subsequently at the Vatican Museums. Since then the research has made considerable progress, as regards a more precise mapping of the development in, and the extent of colour use in the ancient world. This is a case of research of an interdisciplinary, almost detective character with its incorporation of advanced natural scientific methods such as laser, x-rays, infrared reflectography and electron microscopic examination of colour sections from original sculptures. The research results achieved internationally and presented here indicate unequivocally the necessity for a revised picture of Antiquity and thereby also of our own cultural self-awareness.
As if transformed – the Classical world in colour
The exhibition at the Glyptotek shows spectacular original works juxtaposed with experimental reconstructions in their original wealth of colour, the shocking sensuality of which, at one and the same time, makes Antiquity both more present and remote.
The mainstay of the exhibition’s storyline is chronology; but thematic interludes with each their focus ensures variety in the sequence of chapters. Accordingly there is a “zoom” in and out, from the ”big” story to close-ups of periods and individual works. In the same spirit the various investigative methods are documented and put into perspective.
The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue in both a Danish and an English version.
The exhibition is supported by:
A.P. Møller og Hustru Chastine Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til almene Formaal, Augustinus Fonden, Queen Margrethe’s and Prince Henrik’s Foundation, Kirsten og Freddy Johansens Fond and Sadolin Farveland, Amagerbrogade, Jesper Hansen Aps.