The Frieze in the Reading Room. What's Accurate and What Isn't?

Parthenon frieze at the Central Library Many patrons ask about the frieze that runs along the interior wall of the main reading room.  It's a reproduction of one of the friezes that adorned the Parthenon, a temple built in Athens between 447 and 432 B.C.  The temple was dedicated to the worship of Athena (the city's patron deity) and the frieze is believed to depict the Panathenaic procession, which took place annually in the goddess's honor. But the fact that the frieze is colored gives some people pause. After all, most people think that Ancient Greek sculptures were white. Actually archaeologists and scholars have long known that the Greeks painted their buildings and sculptures: faint traces of color linger on some artifacts; there are also references to the colors on statues in Ancient Greek writings. Of course 2,600 year-old-paint residue and written references aren't enough to tell us what the fully painted sculptures actually looked like, so the colors on our frieze are guesses based on the color scheme of a reproduction of the Parthenon that once stood in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But in recent years German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann has been using ultraviolet light to examine the faint traces of paint on Ancient Greek sculptures (traces often not visible to the naked eye) and determine the materials used in making the pigments. And to illustrate his findings he created copies of Ancient Greek (and Roman) statues and painted them using the pigment combinations he's found in his investigations. The results are radically different from the austere sculptures we see in museums (and from the subdued hues of our own frieze): brightly painted statue of Athena (reproduction)brightly painted ancient Greek frieze: battle scene (reproduction)

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