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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

F. B. Tarbell, A History of Ancient Greek Art

Greek Architecture

Color

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One highly important fact about Greek architecture has thus far been only touched upon; that is, the liberal use it made of color. The ruins of Greek temples are to-day monochromatic, either glittering white, as is the temple at Sunium, or of a golden brown, as are the Parthenon and other buildings of Pentelic marble, or of a still warmer brown, as are the limestone temples of Paestum and Girgenti (Acragas). But this uniformity of tint is due only to time. A "White City," such as made the pride of Chicago in 1893, would have been unimaginable to an ancient Greek. Even to-day the attentive observer may sometimes see upon old Greek buildings, as, for example, upon ceiling-beams of the Parthenon, traces left by patterns from which the color has vanished. In other instances remains of actual color exist. So specks of blue paint may still be seen, or might a few years ago, on blocks belonging to the Athenian Propylaea. But our most abundant evidence for the original use of color comes from architectural fragments recently unearthed. During the excavation of Olympia (1875-81) this matter of the coloring of architecture was constantly in mind and a large body of facts relating to it was accumulated. Every new and important excavation adds to the store. At present our information is much fuller in regard to the polychromy of Doric than of Ionic buildings. It appears that, just as the forms and proportions of a building and of all its details were determined by precedent, yet not so absolutely as to leave no scope for the exercise of individual genius, so there was an established system in the coloring of a building, yet a system which varied somewhat according to time and place and the taste of the architect.


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Cf. A probable representation of Parthenon as it was colored

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Reference address : http://www.ellopos.net/elpenor/greek-texts/ancient-greece/history-of-ancient-greek-art-12.asp