On the Colour Trail

DTU Kemi
Geologisk Museum
Time span
2009 - 2013
Project management

Greek and Roman statues were not all about white marble. They were colourful. This is the evidence of sources from antiquity and from remnants of colour on the actual works. Works made from stone were painted. Bronze sculptures appeared in all their shining metallic glory, but details such as eyes, lips and teeth were executed in other, coloured materials such as ivory, amber, copper and silver.

There were also statues made from precious materials such as gold, silver and ivory, with multi-coloured additions. In Roman times, sculptors also made use of variegated marble.

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is the first museum in the world to organise an interdisciplinary research project, On the Colour Trail, examining the traces of colour on Greek and Roman sculptures, in collaboration with researchers from the School of Conservation at KADK, the Chemistry Department of the Technical University of Denmark and the Geological Museum.

The research team conducted systematic studies of a selection of the museum’s Greek and Roman stone sculptures.  Their work included chemical spot tests and instrumental analysis of pigments and bonding agents, with the use of scanning, radiation and spectroscopy. This helped the researchers to trace remnants of colour. The research findings have been described in several periodicals and news media in Denmark and abroad.