In the Archeological Museum of Paros, there is a statue of Artemis from her sanctuary at the Parian Delion. It’s dated 360 BC and was discovered in 1899. And, like most all of the Greek statues I’ve seen, it’s white.
When thinking of classical antiquity, neon white marble generally comes to mind. But ancient Greek statues were actually polychrome and the color stripped away by time. Some of these statues were discovered during the Renaissance and were, obviously, colorless and white. So Michelangelo and his contemporaries just assumed that the statues had been white all along. Thus Neo-Classical aesthetics were based on wrong assumptions. Art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann helped to perpetuated this myth. He wrote: “The whiter the body is, the more beautiful it is as well.” Later on, some art historians claimed that the statues were originally painted and, subsequently, were treated as quacky eccentrics.
In the exhibition “Gods in Color”, German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann presents vividly painted plaster copies of famous statues to show how they were intended to be. Many people have difficulties accepting the color because, for many, white is elegant but color is kitsch. However, say Brinkmann, color gave the statues vitality and an erotic energy that the Greeks were seeking.
Sometimes, because we’ve based our ideas on misconceptions, we are not only disorientated by the truth but regard it with hostility. When paradigms are pulverized, we lose our balance. We prefer to continue with our old beliefs because it’s a stress to reconfigure mental habits.
The earth is still flat.