Washington, Feb 4 : A new research has revealed that many ancient Greek and Roman sculptures were painted in a variety of colours other than white.
The research, conducted by Dr Vinzenz Brinkmann of the Liebighaus museum in Frankfurt using strong raking light sources and beams of ultraviolet light, has shown that many Classical statues were gaudily painted in a plethora of colours.
Though sculptures made during the period of renaissance consisted of only white marble, new research has confirmed that much older figurines were multi-coloured.
When ancient sculptures began to be unearthed early in the 19th century, such as those from the Temple of Aphaia on Aegina, excavated in 1811, significant traces of paint were visible.
For research regarding this unusual finding, Brinkmann took the help of strong raking light, which can show finely drawn incised sketches to guide the painter.
Sculptures, which were studied using this process, were a lion's head on the shoulder guard of the famous Stele of Aristion in Athens, and several Cycladic figurines from the Bronze Age, that have similar sketches two millennia earlier.
In both the cases, the use of ultraviolet light helped to reveal the traces of former painted areas.
According to the research, Brinkmann and his wife, Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, have produced copies of a number of classical sculptures where such evidence is apparent, using natural mineral and plant pigments available to the ancient artists and identified by X-ray fluorescence, infra-red spectroscopy and other high-tech methods.
The Aegina pediment sculptures used copper-based pigments such as azurite, Egyptian blue and malachite for blues and greens, cinnabar and ochre for reds, and also the plant extract madder.
"The ideal of unpainted sculpture took shape in Renaissance Rome, inspired by finds and early collections of Classical marble statues such as the Laoco¶n, discovered in 1506," said Dr Susanne Ebbinghaus of Harvard University.
According to Ebbinghaus, these ancient sculptures were actually stripped of their painted surfaces by prolonged exposure to the elements, burial and often, most likely, a good scrub upon recovery.