The frontispiece attempts to suggest what
the coloring of the Parthenon was like, and thus to
illustrate the general scheme of Doric polychromy. The
colors used were chiefly dark blue, sometimes almost black,
and red; green and yellow also occur, and some details were
gilded. The coloration of the building was far from total.
Plain surfaces, as walls, were unpainted. So too were the
columns, including, probably, their capitals, except between
the annulets. Thus color was confined to the upper members –
the triglyphs, the under surface (soffit) of the cornice,
the sima, the anta-capitals, the ornamental details
generally, the coffers of the ceiling, and the backgrounds
of sculpture. The triglyphs, regulae, and mutules were blue;
the taenia of the architrave and the soffit of the cornice
between the mutules with the adjacent narrow bands were red;
the backgrounds of sculpture, either blue or red; the
hawk's-beak molding, alternating blue and red; and so on.
The principal uncertainty regards the treatment of the
unpainted members. Were these left of a glittering white, or
were they toned down, in the case of marble buildings, by
some application or other, so as to contrast less glaringly
with the painted portions? The latter supposition receives
some confirmation from Vitruvius, a Roman writer on
architecture of the age of Augustus, and seems to some
modern writers to be demanded by aesthetic considerations.
On the other hand, the evidence of the Olympia buildings
points the other way. Perhaps the actual practice varied. As
for the coloring of Ionic architecture, we know that the
capital of the column was painted, but otherwise our
information is very scanty.