Colors of Classical Art

October 4 to December 21, 2014

The arts of antiquity are rarely considered in terms of color, in large part due to the fragmentary nature of their preservation. Moreover, our modern view of ancient art is strongly influenced by aesthetic and historical perspectives that are dependent on the lack of color: we consider pristine white marble statues, the limited palette of red-and-black vases, and monochromatic metals to be the norm. Much ancient art, however, was richly and vibrantly colored, and a consideration of color can have a revolutionary effect on our view of the ancient world.

Colors of Classical Art examines the varied roles played by color in ancient Greek and Roman art. The objects in the exhibition are from IU Art Museum’s large ancient art collection, some of which is rarely on view. The exhibition explores the interrelationships among a wide range of media—stone, metalwork, ceramics, glass, jewelry, and textiles; the materials and techniques used to manufacture and apply color; and the social contexts for the use of color. Reconstructions of the colors of some of the works in the exhibition are also included.

Colors of Classical Art comprises three simultaneous exhibitions: in the first floor Stewart Hexagon Gallery, in the Gallery of the Arts of Asia and the Ancient Western World on the second floor, and on the web. This unusual arrangement allowed a larger selection from our collection to be highlighted, and it provided students in the Art History department with the opportunity to experience object-based research and museum practices through two courses offered collaboratively by the IU Art Museum and the Department of the History of Art. Both graduate and undergraduate students participated in preparations for the in-gallery and on-line exhibitions.

See related: Web module

mage: Greek. Hoop Earring with Goat Head Finial. First-second century. Gold, carnelian, emerald, glass. Burton Y. Berry Collection. IU Art Museum 70.82.47