The Polychrome Reconstruction of the Prima Porta Statue – 普利马波塔塑像的彩绘重建

Picture Piece - 01 Oct 2017

The Polychrome Reconstruction of the Prima Porta Statue

To what extent did the ancients colour their sculptures?

By Peter Stewart


The Polychrome Reconstruction of the Prima Porta Statue - 普利马波塔塑像的彩绘重建

Polychrome reconstruction of the Prima Porta statue of Augustus, 2004. Painted plaster cast made after a prototype by P. Liverani, Vatican Museums, Rome, height 2.2 m. Courtesy: Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford.

With cerise lips and auburn hair, crimson cloak and tunic, and details on his armour picked out in maroon and electric blue, Caesar Augustus raises his right hand in the air. He resembles, as the art historian Fabio Barry unhappily commented to the Washington Post in 2008, ‘a cross-dresser trying to hail a taxi’. Is this really what Rome’s first emperor was supposed to look like? The coloured reconstruction in plaster of Paris, made by Vatican conservators in 2004, radically transforms the Prima Porta statue of Augustus. The original Parian marble work, from around the start of the first century CE, is one of the masterpieces of the Vatican Museums. There, it stands within a conventionally pallid gallery of unpainted Roman statues and busts. But the classical whiteness of ancient sculpture is an illusion. It has been known for more than two centuries that Greek and Roman artists routinely added pigments both to statues and architecture. The acknowledgement of their use on ancient Greek temples like the Parthenon inspired the bright, variegated decoration of Greek Revival architecture in 19th-century Europe. Occasionally, ancient sculptures themselves bear extant traces of paint. When the Prima Porta statue was excavated on the site of the Empress Livia’s villa near Rome in 1863, some of its colours were still visible to the naked eye. Not long afterwards, new archaeological discoveries in Greece – particularly the archaic sculptures of the Athenian Acropolis – seemed to prove that at least some ancient marbles were as brightly painted as Mediterranean fishing boats.

Nevertheless, academic awareness of polychromy has never much penetrated popular consciousness of ancient art; nor, indeed, has it shaped research. Only in recent years has scholarship on the subject blossomed, notably with a groundbreaking scientific project at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen and with touring exhibitions of astonishing plaster reconstructions by the German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann. It was in the context of Brinkmann’s 2003 exhibition at the Glyptothek in Munich, ‘Gods in Colour’, that a team at the Vatican subjected the Prima Porta statue to scientific analysis, identifying the pigments that had apparently vanished since the sculpture’s discovery. Visitors to Brinkmann’s iconoclastic exhibitions are invariably shocked and delighted. Yet, we should be cautious about such reconstructions. Notwithstanding the gamut of scientific imaging techniques available to modern research, a lot of speculation is employed to fill the gaps. Reconstructions in plaster hardly do justice to the marble originals. There are good reasons to believe that colour was a much more subtle component of many ancient sculptures than the eye-catching re-creations imply. The Romans, for example, conceived of portraits as true likenesses. To leave them unpainted would have been as senseless as presenting white waxworks in Madame Tussauds. For the same reason, however, garish colours would have undermined their evocative purpose.

Perhaps, though, our biggest obstacle is an insurmountable one. Reconstructing the colour of ancient sculpture can jolt us into re-imagining a world that differs from our expectations, but ancient viewers took polychromy for granted and, therefore, literally saw it in a different way. We can never view these colours through their eyes.

Polychrome reconstruction of the Prima Porta statue of Augustus, 2004, painted plaster cast made after a protoype by P. Liverani, Vatican Museums, Rome, height 2.2 m. Courtesy: Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, Oxford

Peter Stewart

Dr Peter Stewart is Director of the Classical Art Research Centre and Associate Professor of Classical Art and Archaeology at Oxford University, UK. His books include Statues in Roman Society: Representation and Response (2003) and The Social History of Roman Art (2008).

Picture Piece
Peter Stewart
Art History

Issue 6

First published in Issue 6

October 2017

图画- 01十月2017号普利马波塔塑像的多色重建,古人对其雕塑的色彩有多大程度?由彼得斯图尔特WebjcgHy102-AycMyk.JPG The Polychrome Reconstruction of the Prima Porta Statue - 普利马波塔塑像的彩绘重建多色重建普利马波塔奥古斯都塑像,2004。由罗马梵蒂冈博物馆P. Liverani的原型制作的石膏石膏模型,高度2.2米礼貌:阿什莫尔艺术博物馆和考古学,牛津。Caesar Augustus的嘴唇和赭色头发,深红色斗篷和束腰外衣,以及他的盔甲在栗色和电蓝色中挑出的细节,在空中举起了他的右手。他就像艺术历史学家Fabio Barry在2008不幸地对《华盛顿邮报》说:“一个穿梳妆台的人试图叫一辆出租车。”这真的是罗马第一个皇帝的样子吗?2004梵蒂冈保护者在巴黎建造的彩色石膏,彻底改造了普利马波塔的Augustus雕像。最初的帕里安大理石作品,从一世纪开始,是梵蒂冈博物馆的杰作之一。在那里,它矗立在一个传统的苍白的画廊里,里面没有画出罗马雕像和半身像。但是古代雕塑的古典白度是一种幻觉。两个多世纪以来,希腊和罗马艺术家经常将颜料添加到雕像和建筑中。承认他们在古希腊神庙中的使用,如帕台农神庙,启发了19世纪欧洲希腊复兴建筑的明亮、杂乱的装饰。偶尔,古代雕塑本身也有现存的绘画痕迹。1863年,在罗马普利马波塔皇后维利亚维拉别墅的遗址上挖掘出了这座雕像。不久之后,希腊新的考古发现——尤其是雅典卫城的古老雕塑——似乎证明了至少一些古代大理石像地中海渔船一样鲜艳。然而,多色的学术意识却从未渗透到古代艺术的大众意识中,事实上也没有形成它的研究。仅在最近几年,关于这门学科的奖学金就开始了,特别是在哥本哈根纽约嘉士伯Gelptotk的一个开创性的科学项目,以及德国考古学家维森泽布林克曼惊人的石膏重建的巡回展览。这是在布林克曼在慕尼黑的GrPytoTek的2003次展览中,“色彩之神”,梵蒂冈的一个团队对普利马波塔雕像进行了科学分析,鉴定了自从雕塑发现以来明显消失的颜料。布林克曼的传统展览的参观者总是感到震惊和高兴。然而,我们应该对这种重建持谨慎态度。尽管有科学成像技术可用于现代研究,但大量的猜测被用来填补空白。灰泥的重建几乎不符合大理石的原貌。有很多理由相信,色彩是许多古代雕塑的一个更微妙的组成部分,而不是引人注目的重新创造意味着。例如,罗马人认为肖像画是真正的肖像画。把它们留给未曾画过的人就像在杜莎夫人蜡像馆里展示白色蜡像一样毫无意义。然而,同样的原因,花哨的颜色会破坏他们的唤起性。然而,我们最大的障碍可能是不可逾越的障碍。重建古代雕塑的色彩可以使我们重新想象一个与我们的期望不同的世界,但是古代的观众认为多色是理所当然的,因此,从字面上看,它是不同的。我们永远无法从他们的眼睛中看到这些颜色。普利马波塔奥古斯都塑像的彩绘重建,2004,彩绘石膏石膏后,由P.LiValina,梵蒂冈博物馆,罗马,身高2.2米礼貌:阿什莫尔艺术博物馆和考古学,Oxford Pete斯图尔特博士斯图尔特博士是古典艺术研究中心主任,英国牛津大学古典艺术和考古学副教授。他的著作包括罗马社会的雕像:表现和回应(2003)和罗马艺术的社会史(2008)。图片:彼得.斯图尔特雕塑艺术史6期,第一期出版于2017年10月6日


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