Marbles from antiquity are expected to be white, depicting „intellectual beauty“ without any colors or additional ornaments. But in reality, those artworks originally were decorated in variegation – a video from the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art’s „Spotlight“ series gives the background and tells where our image of antique art comes from and what is behind it.
On the MET webpage “Debunking the Myth of Whiteness“, Professor Dan-el Padilla Peralta and Associate Curator Sarah Lepinski discuss misconceptions about race, color, and artistic representation in the Roman Mediterranean world. Focusing on the white marble portrait bust of the emperor Caligula, the conversation touches on polychromy and its role in presenting an idealized form of the emperor. Using a remarkable passage from a satirical novel by the Roman writer Petronius, they consider the multiple dimensions of cultural and racial differentiation in the Roman world and how understanding these dimensions expands our understanding of Roman art in museum settings.