The white lie we've been told about Roman statues

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The white lie we've been told about Roman statues 5

The ancient world was actually really colorful.

When you think of the ancient world, you probably picture towering buildings of white marble, adorned with statues also made of white marble. You’re not alone — most people picture the same thing. But we’re all wrong.

Ancient buildings and sculptures were actually really colorful. The Greeks and Romans painted their statues to resemble real bodies, and often gilded them so they shone like gods. So why is seemingly every museum on planet earth full of white marble sculptures?

It’s partly an honest mistake. After the fall of Rome, ancient sculptures were buried or left out in the open air for hundreds of years. By the time the Renaissance began in the 1300s, their paint had faded away. As a result, the artists unearthing, and copying ancient art didn’t realize how colorful it was supposed to be.

But white marble couldn’t have become the norm without some willful ignorance. Even though there was a bunch of evidence that ancient sculpture was painted, artists, art historians and the general public chose to disregard it. Western culture seemed to collectively accept that white marble was simply prettier.

Today, art history is more concerned with accuracy than it is with what might look better. So teams of researchers use a combination of art and science to painstakingly create reconstructions of ancient statues, showing us the true colors of classical antiquity.

Also check out:
“The Myth of Whiteness in Classical Sculpture” by Margaret Talbot

And the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

💬 Comments on the video

Colorization of statues should be an augmented reality app for every museum.

Author — H. Y


I’ve got to admit, the white marble looks pretty sick

Author — James Cusack


Wait u guys don't know that? In Italy we get taught that the old statues were coloured, they just lost the colours

Author — yesitsmeguru


Bruh don’t they know color wasn’t even invented until like 1930

Author — Mike Hunt


This is literally taught at school in Italy, how you united States citizens talk about this as if it was a secret? 👁👄👁

Author — Eleonora Pizzini


Once in art school our teacher was sick, so a substitute came in, and she went on like a 20 minute RANT about how the sculptures were not white, but colored. She was rlly passionate about that.

Author — you spilled lipstick in my Valentino white bag?!


Why i thought she was gonna say Cesar was black

Author — Lost Hoolig Ann


One of my ancient history professors said that the Greeks were so outlandishly colourful in their statues and frescos that they were considered brash and gauche by the ancient Egyptians, who saw them in much the same light as today's aristocracy views the "nouveaux riches." Enjoyed the video, thanks.

Author — Arletty Abady


"The whiter the body is, the more beautiful it is"
Hol up

Author — Jakub Kaczmarek


Two years of art history classes and my teacher NEVER touched upon this? HOW.

Author — itcrinklezzz


In hind sight, it makes sense, having colours.
Colour signify that they can afford pigments. The richer you are, the more grandiose your colours should be!

And look at the clothes of existing tribes across all nations, many of them boasts colours!

Author — DeiDraws


I tought this is general knowledge. Statues were supposed to be lifelike and that means color as well.

Author — Karol Takisobie


Pure white is a design choice by the artist. Looks better that way if you ask me. Color distracts from the details of the stone. White helps you appreciate the talent of the sculptor more.
Note: please don’t read some sort of racial commentary into what I’m saying, I’m talking about rocks here

Author — clint morris


Any trip to a museum in Greece, you’d find this out in the first 5 minutes :)

Author — Alexia Kat


Imagine Disneyland faded completely colorless and pale in the future.

Author — GCellyJelly BellyBeanTacoDog


This video is so wrong. We all know sculptures were colored. cmon.

Author — Ludovico Riviera


Mayan and Aztec statues and pyramids were painted colours also.
The mayan civilisation had collapsed and its temples and cities overgrown with forest 500 years before the Spanish arrived.

Author — Kingfillins


I honestly expected her to go "This is Caesar Augustus, a sexist, racist misogynist and leader of the Roman Empire"

Author — Heer Kommando


Right that’s it Michael Angelo, you’re cancelled as well. Go join Shane Dawson and Jenna Marbles

Author — jimboid135


It’s like learning that the dinosaurs had feathers

Author — AFCofNYC