Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Chroma” Highlights Color in Greek & Roman Sculpture

NEW YORK – The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York presents Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color, an impressive exhibition which opened on July 5 and runs through March 26, 2023 and offers visitors the opportunity to experience ancient sculpture in a new way, reminding us that the ancient artworks were originally bright with natural pigments applied in various techniques, not the stark white that came with the effects of exposure to the weather and time.

As noted in the Museum’s press release, ancient Greek and Roman sculpture was once colorful, vibrantly painted, and richly adorned with detailed ornamentation. Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color reveals the colorful backstory of polychromy— meaning “many colors” in Greek— and presents new discoveries of surviving ancient color on artworks in The Met’s world-class collection. Exploring the artistic practices and materials used in ancient polychromy, the exhibition highlights cutting-edge scientific methods used to identify ancient color and examines how color helped convey meaning in antiquity, and how ancient polychromy has been viewed and understood in later periods.

Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of The Met, said: “This innovative exhibition will activate The Met’s displays of ancient Greek and Roman art like never before by displaying colorful reconstructions of ancient sculptures throughout the galleries. It is truly an exhibition that brings history to life through rigorous research and scientific investigation, and presents new information about works that have long been in The Met collection.”

The exhibition is made possible by the Aretê Foundation/Betsy and Ed Cohen. Additional support is provided by Mary Jaharis and Cathrin M. Stickney and Mark P. Gorenberg.

Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color opened on July 5 and runs through March 26, 2023 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Photo by Eleni Sakellis

The exhibition is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, in collaboration with the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection, Frankfurt am Main.

The exhibition features a series of reconstructions of ancient sculptures in color by Prof. Dr. V. Brinkmann, Head of the Department of Antiquity at the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection, and Dr. U. Koch-Brinkmann, and introduces a new reconstruction of The Met’s Archaic-period Sphinx finial, created by The Liebieghaus team in collaboration with The Met. Presented alongside original Greek and Roman works representing similar subjects, the reconstructions are the result of a wide array of analytical investigations, including 3D imaging, and art historical research. Polychromy is a significant area of study for The Met, and the Museum has a long history of investigating, preserving, and presenting manifestations of original color on ancient statuary.

Displayed throughout the Museum’s Greek and Roman galleries, the exhibition explores four main themes: the discovery and identification of color and other surface treatments on ancient works of art; the reconstruction and interpretation of polychromy on ancient Greek and Roman sculpture; the role of polychromy in conveying meaning within Greek and Roman contexts; and the reception of polychromy in later periods.

In conjunction with the exhibition, a two-day symposium will be held at The Met in March 2023, assembling an international group of scholars and including Met curators, conservators, and scientists, to discuss a wide range of subjects related to the polychromy of ancient sculpture. Proceedings of the symposium will be published by The Met.

The symposium and the accompanying publication are made possible by Mary Jaharis.

More information is available online: https://www.metmuseum.org.


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