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Painting Statues, Theseus

Post  AgathonZante on Thu May 08, 2014 2:57 pm

I am about to get a statue of Theseus battling the Minotaur. If wanted to paint it, what would be the appropriate colors for things like clothing of Theseus and the Minotaur's skin?
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Re: Painting Statues, Theseus

Post  Erodius on Thu May 08, 2014 6:40 pm

AgathonZante wrote:I am about to get a statue of Theseus battling the Minotaur. If wanted to paint it, what would be the appropriate colors for things like clothing of Theseus and the Minotaur's skin?

Classical statues (at least the larger ones that were on public display) actually were painted. They were not displayed as the plain white marble/plaster as we usually see them today. The same is true of the elaborate carvings on the front of European Gothic cathedrals.

Over time, the natural pigment paints simply washed/wore off, so we are left, after a few centuries, with the bare marble we see now, and people simply forgot that they had ever been painted in the first place.

It has actually only been fairly recently that it has become widely known in archaeology that Greek and Roman sculptures were elaborately painted. Using microscopes, one group of archaeologists examined the famous statue of Caesar Augustus to figure out what colors it had originally been painted, going from the microscopic traces of paint left in the holes in the stone. Below is the result:

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As to your question, Theseus' clothing would have been painted simply, either painted white, or, likely, a kind of russet-red or saffron-yellow, which were the more common colors for clothing in Antiquity. Purple was the color of leaders and generals, so it may have been a murex-purple, for Theseus was a prince of monarchical Athens. Accents of gold would also be common. In terms of color use in Greece and Rome, red was very common, orange did not really exist at all, yellow was common, green was a fairly inexpensive/lower class color, purple was reserved for the wealthy, and genuine blue was among the most expensive colors of all (turquoise-y blue dyes were made with copper oxide, but genuine blue had to be made either from woad [a plant that had to be imported from Gaul and Britain] or with crushed lapis lazuli stone, a gem that had to be imported all the way from what is now Afghanistan).

The minotaur would presumably have been painted to resemble a real life bull.

Hope that helps.

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Re: Painting Statues, Theseus

Post  AgathonZante on Thu May 08, 2014 9:40 pm

Yes, for some reason, I have been getting the color yellow in my head when thinking about what color to paint Theseus' clothes. What of his hair and the tie in it?
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Re: Painting Statues, Theseus

Post  Erodius on Thu May 08, 2014 9:57 pm

AgathonZante wrote:Yes, for some reason, I have been getting the color yellow in my head when thinking about what color to paint Theseus' clothes. What of his hair and the tie in it?

Hair would almost unfailingly be brown or black. Blonde or red hair was associated with the Gauls and Germans out to the far north and west.

As for a headband, the most likely choices would be undyed wool/linen (off-white/beige), the 'classical red' which you can see used heavily on the Augustus statue (made from the madder plant), or saffron yellow.

As a side note, it is interesting to consider that, in Latin, the Romans called the color red 'ruber', which might be derived from their name for the madder plant 'rubia', and yellow was called 'croceus', which derives from 'crocus', the plant from which saffron and saffron color is obtained.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Painting Statues, Theseus

Post  AgathonZante on Thu May 08, 2014 10:04 pm

Well thank you for your help. The statue hasn't arrived yet, so I don't know if it might not be practical to paint, but I'll see.
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