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Quatremère de Quincy's Role in the Revival of Polychromy in Sculpture (No. 10)


In the middle of the eighteenth century it rarely occurred to anyone that Greek and Roman artists had made their statues out of any material other than pure white marble. A hundred years later, the situation had changed dramatically.

By the mid-nineteenth century, artists and historians widely accepted that fact that classical sculptors worked in a much more diverse range of materials, and even painted their marble statues, relishing the effect of colour in sculpture.

The revolution in how colour in classical art was percieved was due in no small part to art historian Antoine-Chrysostôme Quatremère de Quincy (1755-1849). In this essay, Yvonne Luke explains how Quatremère de Quincy spent decades researching and publicising his discoveries about the polychrome arts in antiquity, and how he encouraged artists of his own generation to experiment with colour to broaden the definitions of sculpture.

This essay was written to accompany the exhibition The Colour of Sculpture (12 December 1996 - 6 April 1997, Galleries 1, 2 and 3).

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