The International Round Table on Polychromy in Ancient Sculpture and Architecture or the “Polychromy Round Table” is a series of meetings dedicated to the study of the polychromy of ancient sculpture and architecture.

The subject of colour in the ancient world has long fascinated scholars. Within the realm of Classical art, historians stretching back to the late eighteenth century have periodically addressed the topic that sculpture and architectural elements from the Greco-Roman world, and beyond, were originally highly coloured.

Recently, interest in this field has once more been reinvigorated by the advent of new scientific techniques and methodologies, as well as by a community of diverse and interdisciplinary scholars, dedicated to the study of the polychromy of ancient sculpture and architecture.

Since 2009, this growing network of scholars has met on a series of occasions(see Past Meetings), first held annually and, since 2016, biennially.

The meetings have a strong tradition of providing an excellent opportunity for experts from a wide range of fields (archaeologists, architectural historians, scientists, conservators, museum and digital humanities professionals) to discuss new research in a stimulating multidisciplinary setting. Papers from a variety of perspectives are encouraged and cover many aspects of polychromy in ancient sculpture and architecture.

PRT1_Meeting

The first meeting of the Polychromy Round Table, held at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen in 2009, was made up of only 11 participants. By comparison, 2020's virtual meeting had more than 360 registrants.

Image © Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek

This website collects the experience of these productive and rich encounters at the Polychromy Round Table, in the form of past programmes, abstracts and published proceedings. It also aims to provide a focal point for this network and research community to share news on its investigations, publications and events.

In the inclusive spirit of the Polychromy Round Table and its network, this site also aims to reach out to other researchers who may be considering the subject of ancient polychromy from the Greco-Roman world or relevant comparative studies from their own interdisciplinary viewpoints, geographical areas and time periods. Contact us here or on polychromyroundtable@gmail.com.

Latest information on the Polychromy Round Table meeting

The 12th International Round Table on Polychromy in Ancient Sculpture and Architecture
Art & Science Unite! Interdisciplinary Polychromy Research
18 – 21 November 2024

at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

See Updated Conference Information here.

For further information contact: PRT12@getty.edu

Updated: 14/05/2024  

                                                                                                                                  More on Next Meeting

Latest News

Project News: Illusion and allusion. Rediscovering colours in Roman and early medieval architecture

The biennial project (Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan; Università di Torino) is supported by the Italian Ministry of University and Research and constitutes a pilot research on the constituent characteristics of the ‘skin’ of Roman and early medieval buildings in north-western Italy: the original colour and treatment of masonry surfaces and structural/decorative components are a key part of fragile, crumbling architecture of which only fleeting traces often remain. The study of the architectural complex as a whole (traces of polychromy on elements of architectural decoration/structures and finishing techniques of masonry facings) is crucial for reconstructing the original appearance of architectural heritage and understanding how it was perceived in its era, an immaterial aspect that should not be ignored in the investigation of the past. The focus is therefore colour, both that of the material itself but especially the colour applied to surfaces with various techniques, which conditions the interpretation of decorative and structural details, generating phenomena of illusion and allusion, the significance of which changes over time.

Added: 09/04/2024

Painted fragments of Vicenza stone ionic capitals from the Roman villa of Sirmione, Italy. Image © Furio Sacchi 

Detail of a pillar from the Basilica of Saint Simplician in Milan, Italy. Image © Paola Greppi

                                                                                                                                                   More News

Latest Publications

New articles!

"Real-time identification and visualization of Egyptian blue using modified night vision goggles"

Marco Nicola, Roberto Gobetto, Alessandro Bazzacco, Chiara Anselmi, Enrico Ferraris, Alfonsina Russo, Admir Masic and Antonio Sgamellotti 

Rend. Fis. Acc. Lincei, 2024.

Read more here: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12210-024-01245-w

Published online - 22/04/2024.

"Tracking Color Through Time: Polychromy on Etruscan Urns from Ancient Creation to Modern Intervention"

Cecilie Brøns, Jens Stenger, Anna Katerinopoulou, Katherine Eremin, Kate Smith, Georgina Rayner, Susanne Ebbinghaus, and Jacob Kveiborg

American Journal of Archaeology, 2024, Vol. 128, No. 2, pp. 167-197.

Read more here: https://doi.org/10.1086/728694

Published online - 15/03/2024.

"Roman Britain in Colour – Roman Altars from Hadrian's Wall Reimagined"

Andrew Parkin

Theoretical Roman Archaeology Journal, 20246(1), 1–19.

Read more here: https://doi.org/10.16995/traj.10192

Published online - 19/01/2024.

"Analyses of the brown stain on the Parthenon Centaur head in Denmark"

Kaare Lund Rasmussen, Bodil Bundgaard Rasmussen, Thomas Delbey, Ilaria Bonaduce, Frank Kjeldsen and Vladimir Gorshkov 

Heritage Science, 202412, 1-17.

Read more here: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40494-023-01126-9

Published online - 16/01/2024.

New books!

Archaeology of Colour Technical Art History Studies in Greek and Roman Painting and Polychromy (Meletemata 87)

Edited by Hariclia Brecoulaki

Published by National Hellenic Research Foundation.

Ancient polychromy speaks a language of “the visible” and “the invisible”, through signs of pigments, brushstrokes and forms. Another reminder of our classical past, colour is an inherent component of artistic creation, inspiration and imagination. New sophisticated technologies, as well as the development of interdisciplinary studies over these past decades, have stimulated the collection and evaluation of numerous scientific data from in-situ investigation of polychrome and painted documents, and have challenged our understanding of the complexity and function of ancient painting materials and techniques. The present volume is another contribution to the ongoing exploration of the rich history of colour in the classical world; an exploration which builds on previous knowledge and opens up new horizons for a more extended understanding of the aesthetics and meaning of Greek and Roman art. It includes fifteen papers that move from Archaic and Classical Greece to the Hellenistic and Roman periods, and deal with colour on monumental architecture, marble statues and reliefs, wooden and terracotta statuettes, stone sarcophagi, paintings on stone and plaster, and pigments as raw materials.

Read a preview here.

More details here.

Coming soon!

"Senses, Cognition, and Ritual Experience in the Roman World"

Blanka Misic, Abigail Graham (Editors)

Published by Cambridge University Press

How do the senses shape the way we perceive, understand, and remember ritual experiences? This book applies cognitive and sensory approaches to Roman rituals, reconnecting readers with religious experiences as members of an embodied audience. These approaches allow us to move beyond the literate elites to examine broader audiences of diverse individuals, who experienced rituals as participants and/or performers. Case studies of ritual experiences from a variety of places, spaces, and contexts across the Roman world, including polytheistic and Christian rituals, state rituals, private rituals, performances, and processions, demonstrate the dynamic and broad-scale application that cognitive approaches offer for ancient religion, paving the way for future interdisciplinary engagement.

More details here.

Published - 25/01/2024.

Upcoming Events

International symposium, kulturGUTerhalten, at the Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst (Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art) in the Bode-Museum

Reconstruction – Addition – Retouching: History(ies) of the Restoration of Archaeological Treasures

29th - 31st May, 2024.

For more information about this symposium, please visit:

kulturGUTerhalten: Reconstruction – Addition – Retouching (smb.museum)

Full programme here.

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