Treu Head

The Treu Head, c. 140-150 AD, Parian Marble, H. 38.10 cm, British Museum, London, UK
https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1884-0617-1  

Ancient Greek and Roman sculpture was once colorful, vibrantly painted and richly adorned with detailed ornamentation. Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color reveals the colorful backstory of polychromy—meaning “many colors,” in Greek—and presents new discoveries of surviving ancient color on artworks in The Met’s world-class collection. Exploring the practices and materials used in ancient polychromy, the exhibition highlights cutting-edge scientific methods used to identify ancient color and examines how color helped convey meaning in antiquity, and how ancient polychromy has been viewed and understood in later periods… write the Metropolitan Museum experts as they introduce their Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color (Through March 26, 2023) Exhibition. A modern study of the color scheme of the so-called Treu Head in the collection of the British Museum is interesting to explore. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/chroma

The Treu Head was found on the Esquiline Hill in Rome in 1884 and soon after its discovery was acquired for the British Museum. It is a high-quality Parian marble sculptural piece from a statue of Venus or Minerva, with extraordinarily rich traces of black and red paint on the eyebrows and eyes, and yellow paint on the hair and brow. The flesh is remarkably rendered in pinkish skin colour. This is an insert head. It is finished and painted only on the front side because it was inserted into a larger-than-life sculpture, which was made of a different material. This extraordinary mid-2nd century AD Roman Head was named after the late nineteenth-century German archaeologist Georg Treu who first published his investigations of its preserved colour. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262324723_The_’Treu_Head’_a_case_study_in_Roman_sculptural_polychromy and https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1884-0617-1  

The Treu Head (black and white photo), c. 140-150 AD, Parian Marble, H. 38.10 cm, British Museum, London, UK https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1884-0617-1

Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann and Vinzenz Brinkmann, fascinated by ancient Greek polychromy and supported by Stiftung Archäologie, are instrumental in coloured reconstructions of famous Greco-Roman statues. The Brinkmanns worked hard in the making of polychrome casts of ancient sculptures, as well as publications and scientific documentation (e.g. in the form of film documentaries) on the subject in question. A chief aim of the Stiftung Archäologie was to promote the creation of didactic (cognitive) objects on the basis of scientific research. http://www.stiftung-archaeologie.de/reconstructionsen.html  

Reconstruction Process: Memos and a colour study of the so-called Treu Head (c. 140-150 AD, Parian Marble, H. 38.10 cm) in the British Museum https://www.liebieghaus.de/en/insights/looking-back-40-years-research and https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1884-0617-1

A key piece in their research is the Treu Head in the collection of the British Museum since the late 19th century. According to Vinzenz Brinkmann, it is remarkable that the Treu Head was not cleaned following its discovery, as was the usual practice at the time. As a result, the clear evidence for an evenly applied skin tone over the entire face is of central importance for our basic understanding of the polychromy of ancient statuary. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/chroma/exhibition-objects

Study 1 of the color scheme of the Treu Head, (c. 140-150 AD, Parian Marble, H. 38.10 cm, British Museum, London, UK) 2014 (2022 recreated after loss in 2021), by Vinzenz Brinkmann and Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann, Marble stucco on a plaster cast after a 3-D scan, natural pigments (chromatographically calibrated) in egg tempera, H. 37 cm, Liebieghaus Skulpturensammlung (Liebieghaus Polychromy Research Project), Frankfurt am Main, inv. Dep.64 https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/chroma/exhibition-objects  

Remarkably rich in traces of different coloured pigments, Treu Head is a valuable source of information in Roman sculptural polychromy. According to Giovanni Verri, Thorsten Opper, and Thibaut Deviese, the head retained extensive traces of its original polychromy, including otherwise rarely preserved skin pigments. Ever since the German scholar Georg Treu published the sculpture in 1889, it has played a significant part in the discussion on ancient sculptural polychromy and in particular the question of whether or not the flesh parts of marble sculptures were originally painted. Examining the Treu Head, the above mentioned scholars, found that complex mixtures of pigments, and selected pigments for specific areas, were used to create subtle tonal variations. The conclusion of their research confirmed beyond doubt the authenticity of the preserved pigments and thereby the sculpture itself, which can now rightfully reassume its important place in the art historical discussion of the polychromy of ancient sculpture. https://www.academia.edu/5842238/G_Verri_T_Opper_and_T_Deviese_The_Treu_Head_a_case_study_in_Roman_sculptural_polychromy_The_British_Museum_Technical_Bulletin_4_2010_39_54

For a PowerPoint on Polychromy, please… Check HERE!

An interesting, Metropolitan Museum Video titled The “Treu Head”: A Virtual Color Reconstruction…  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k5iEDtL2I8Y

If you are interested in visiting or browsing through the Metropolitan Museum of Art Exhibition Chroma: Ancient Sculpture in Color (Through March 26, 2023), please Check… https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/chroma/visiting-guide and https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2022/chroma/exhibition-objects

The Treu Head, c. 140-150 AD, Parian Marble, H. 38.10 cm, British Museum, London, UK https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1884-0617-1  

Peplos Kore

The “Rampin Master” (?)
Peplos Kore, c. 530 BC, Parian Marble, H. 1.2 m, Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece
https://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en/statue-kore-peplos-kore

The Peplos Kore was discovered, back in 1886, in the Acropolis of Athens, during excavation work (1885-1889) led by P. Kavvadias. The lower part of her body was lying, broken, along with thirteen more broken statues, mostly female, architectural members, bronze figurines, marble statue bases, a hoard of silver coins, terracotta figurines, and sherds of pottery, in the so-called “Korai Pit” northwest of the Erechtheion. According to the Acropolis Museum experts, the “Korai Pit” is the conventional name for an artificial fill that covered a hollow located northwest of the Erechtheion, in order to create a level plane to receive the new fortification wall of the Acropolis. The hollow was filled with the debris of the Acropolis after it was destroyed by the Persians in 480 BC during the second Persian invasion of Greece. The buried treasures of the Acropolis are also known as the Perserschutt, a German term meaning “Persian debris or rubble.” The head of the Peploforos was found near the Korai Pit, and the statue’s torso, a little to the south, in the area of the Old Temple of Athena. https://theacropolismuseum.gr/en/statue-kore-5

The so-called “Korai Pit” northwest of the Erechtheion in the Acropolis of Athens, 1909 photo
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perserschutt

The “Peplophoros” as it is affectionately called by the Greeks, is an Archaic period (c. 600-480 BC) statue of a young female. Statues of a Kore, plural korai, refer to a type of freestanding effigy of a maiden specifically created during the Archaic Period. The Questions and Answers that follow, will hopefully help to better understand their role and importance in the development of Ancient Greek Art.

Can you define what a Kore statue is? Statues of a Kore, plural Korai, refer to a type of freestanding effigy of a maiden. Kore is a draped female figure—carved from marble and originally painted—standing erect with feet together or sometimes with one foot, usually the left, slightly advanced. The arms are sometimes down at the sides, but in most cases, one is brought up closely across the front of the body or is extended, holding an offering; the other is lowered, often clasping a fold of drapery. In the earliest korai, the bodies are so blocklike that they hardly seem to represent feminine form… Later, the drapery became more fluid, with a greater variation in the folds gained by having one hand of the kore pull the drapery tightly across thighs and buttocks. The garments worn by the kore figures changed in style as well, displaying a pattern, either on borders or as single ornaments scattered over larger areas. https://www.britannica.com/art/kore-Greek-sculpture and http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact?name=Athens%2C+Acropolis+679&object=Sculpture

Can you describe the Peplos Kore? The Kore has been named the “Peplos Kore” due to the garment she wears – the peplos. The peplos was fastened in the middle with a belt and on the shoulders with bronze pins which were secured in the small holes that are still preserved. Beneath her peplos, the Kore wears a longer chiton, whose slender folds encase her legs. Spectrographic analysis of the colours has shown that the belt was once blue and green and the chiton blue, with a green band at the neck. The peplos was white – its middle section decorated with vertical rows of small animals, birds, and riders shown on squares of red framed by bands of colourful rosettes on a green background. The peplos borders were decorated by a double band with spirals, floral elements, and a chain of volutes and palmettes alternating with lotus flowers. https://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en/statue-kore-peplos-kore

The “Rampin Master” (?)
Peplos Kore, c. 530 BC, Parian Marble, H. 1.2 m, Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece
https://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/en/statue-kore-peplos-kore

Do we know the name of the artist who created the Peplos Kore? The face of the Peplos Kore is characterized by an interest in converging planes. The eyes and mouth occupy hollows that emphasize these features, separated by strongly protruding cheeks and a broad nose. The details are so close to the face of the Rampin Horseman that the two are often attributed to the same sculptor often called the “Rampin Master.” If true, she must be one of his late works, for she is stylistically much advanced. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/artifact?name=Athens%2C+Acropolis+679&object=Sculpture

Who is the Peplos Kore, and what is she holding in her left hand? We do not know for sure who she was, and what she was holding in her left hand. However, the combination of a very conservative attire for the time the statue was created, leads many scholars to assume this is not a simple votive Kore statue, but the representation of a goddess – perhaps Artemis, who would have been gripping arrows in her right hand, and a bow in her left. https://theacropolismuseum.gr/en/statue-kore-5

Two more Teacher Curator BLOG POSTS on Ancient Greek Archaic Korai… https://www.teachercurator.com/art/daughters-of-eleutherna/ on the Daughters of Eleutherna, and https://www.teachercurator.com/ancient-greek-art/%CE%BA%CE%AC%CE%BB%CE%BB%CE%BF%CF%82-and-the-kore-from-chios/ on the Kore from Chios

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

The Khan Academy Educational Video on the Peplos Korehttps://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ancient-art-civilizations/greek-art/daedalic-archaic/v/peplos-kore

An interesting Video by the Cambridge University on the Peplos Kore and the way she was dressed and coloured… https://www.classics.cam.ac.uk/museum/collections/peplos-kore  

A fun Student Activity created by the Acropolis Museum Education Department, and titled Color the Peplos Korehttp://repository.acropolis-education.gr/acr_edu/handle/11174/305

The Sarcophagus of the Muses in the Louvre

Sarcophagus of the Muses, c. 150-160 AD, Pentelic Marble, 0.92×2.06 m, the Louvre Museum, Paris, France
https://twitter.com/MuseeLouvre/status/1254455247449317379/photo/1

[36] Come thou, let us begin with the Muses who gladden the great spirit of their father Zeus in Olympus with their songs, telling of things that are and that shall be and that were aforetime with consenting voice. Unwearying flows the sweet sound from their lips, and the house of their father Zeus the loud-thunderer is glad at the lily-like voice of the goddesses as it spread abroad, and the peaks of snowy Olympus resound, and the homes of the immortals. And they uttering their immortal voice, celebrate in song first of all the reverend race of the gods from the beginning, those whom Earth and wide Heaven begot, and the gods sprung of these, givers of good things. Then, next, the goddesses sing of Zeus, the father of gods and men, as they begin and end their strain, how much he is the most excellent among the gods and supreme in power. And again, they chant the race of men and strong giants, and gladden the heart of Zeus within Olympus, — the Olympian Muses, daughters of Zeus the aegis-holder… Writes Hesiod in his Theogony, describing the Muses… the lovely goddesses who dance and sing and inspire poets like Homer, Virgil, Dante, John Milton, and William Blake… Can The Sarcophagus of the Muses in the Louvre help us learn more about them? https://www.theoi.com/Text/HesiodTheogony.html

It does, indeed! According to the Louvre experts… Created around the mid-second century BC, this sarcophagus was probably made for a cultivated Roman anxious to demonstrate his attachment to Greek culture, with models drawn from Greek art. The composition of the frieze, the neutral background and the retrained attitude of the Muses all evoke the classical art of the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. This impression is sustained by the very discreet employment of the drill and the rounded forms of the carefully polished surfaces. The elongated figures of the young women and their almost statuesque appearance, suggested by the depth of the relief, also recall Hellenistic art. Furthermore, each Muse is clearly identified by her attributes and demeanour… https://collections.louvre.fr/en/ark:/53355/cl010278285

Sarcophagus of the Muses, c. 150-160 AD, Pentelic Marble, 0.92×2.06 m, the Louvre Museum, Paris, France
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Muses_sarcophagus_Louvre_MR880.jpg

Let’s Identify them, starting from left to right…

Kalliope… According to Hesiod, Kalliope was the oldest of the nine Muses, the wisest, and the most assertive. As for the Roman poet Ovid, she was the Chief of all Muses! Orpheus was her son and poets since antiquity called upon her for inspiration! Kalliope is the Muse of Epic Poetry, Music, Song, Dance, and Eloquence. Her attribute is the Wax Tablet or the Scroll. Her name means beautiful-voiced.

Thalia… like all nine Muses, was the daughter of Zeus and Mnemosyne (Goddess of Memory) and the mother of the Corybantes, the warrior dancers who worshipped goddess Cybele with drumming and dancing. Thalia is the Muse of Comedy and Bucolic Poetry. Among her attributes are the Comic mask, an ivy wreath, and the shepherd’s staff. She is the joyous, flourishing Muse.

Terpsichore… whose name means Delight in Dancing, is fittingly considered the Muse of Dance. Interestingly she is usually, not in the case of the Louvre Sarcophagus, depicted sitting down, holding a lyre, accompanying the dancers’ choirs with her music. Terpsichore was the mother of the dangerous Sirens, who lured sailors with their music and singing voices to shipwreck and death! Her attribute is the lyre.


Euterpe… the Giver of Delight, was, according to ancient Greek poets, the Goddess of Lyric Poetry. Along with her sisters, she entertained the Gods and Goddesses at Mount Olympus, but she also loved to wander around Mount Helicon and Mount Parnassus. Euterpe is credited as the inventor of the Aulos, an ancient Greek wind instrument, often translated as Flute or Double-Flute. The Aulos is her attribute.

  Polyhymnia… Muse of the sacred Poetry, is the most serious looking of all Muses. Often depicted pensive, and meditative, like in the case of the Louvre Sarcophagus, Polyhymnia, whose name means Praise, is often covered in a veil which is her attribute as well. Diodorus Siculus wrote that Polyhymnia, because by her great (polle) praises (humnesis) she brings distinction to writers whose works have won for them immortal fame…

Clio… whose name derives from the Greek root κλέω/κλείω, meaning to make famous or to celebrate. is the Muse of History. She is often presented holding an open scroll or seated beside a chest of books, which are her attributes as well.

Erato… is the Muse of erotic poetry, and mimic imitation. Her name, etymologically, shares the same root as Eros, the god of love! Erato is usually depicted holding her attribute, the Lyre or a Kithara, and she is adorned with a wreath of myrtle and roses!

Sarcophagus of the Muses (Urania and Melpomene), c. 150-160 AD, Pentelic Marble, 0.92×2.06 m, the Louvre Museum, Paris, France
https://mobile.twitter.com/archaeologyart/status/1448317781582172165/photo/1

Urania… the heavenly Muse of Astronomy, is often depicted wearing a cloak covered in stars, looking upwards toward the sky. In the case of the Louvre Sarcophagus, Urania is portrayed as pensive, looking downwards, pointing to the celestial Globe with a staff. In Orphic Hymn 76 to the Muses Urania is beautifully described as heavenly bright.

Melpomene… is the Melodious Muse of Tragic Poetry, the Muse who celebrates with dance and song. Melpomene is often depicted with her attributes… carrying a sword or a dagger, holding the tragic mask, and wearing cothurnus boots which were worn by tragic actors.

For a PowerPoint on The Sarcophagus of the Muses in the Louvre, please… Click HERE!

Interesting information on the 9 Muses can be found… https://www.theoi.com/Ouranios/Mousai.html and https://www.thoughtco.com/the-greek-muses-119788 and https://www.greekmythology.com/Other_Gods/The_Muses/the_muses.html and https://pantheon.org/articles/m/muse.html  

Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edgar Degas

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

You may write me down in history / With your bitter, twisted lies, / or may trod me in the very dirt / But still, like dust, I’ll rise.    /    Does my sassiness upset you? / Why are you beset with gloom? / ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells / Pumping in my living room.    /    Just like moons and like suns, / With the certainty of tides, / Just like hopes springing high, / Still I’ll rise.    /    Did you want to see me broken? / Bowed head  /and lowered eyes? / Shoulders falling down like teardrops.    /    Weakened by my soulful cries.    /    Does my haughtiness offend you? / Don’t you take it awful hard / ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines / Diggin’ in my own back yard.    /    You may shoot me with your words, / You may cut me with your eyes, / You may kill me with your hatefulness, / But still, like air, I’ll rise.    /    Does my sexiness upset you? / Does it come as a surprise / That I dance like I’ve got diamonds / At the meeting of my thighs?    /    Out of the huts of history’s shame / I rise / Up from a past that’s rooted in pain / I rise / I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, / Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.    /    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear / I rise / Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear / I rise / Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, / I am the dream and the hope of the slave.    /    I rise    /    I rise    /    I rise… writes Maya Angelou and I think of the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Edgar Degas in the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens… https://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poems/best/dance

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (detail), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/shop/category/edgar-degas

Edgar Degas found ballet dancing irresistible and at the Paris Opéra, he frequently attended grand ballet productions on stage and small ballet classes in rehearsal studios. He was an astute observer of the ballerinas’ daily routine of rehearsing, stretching, and resting. He studied dance movements and filled numerous notebooks with sketches to help him remember details so he could later compose paintings and model sculptures in his studio. His penetrating observations are best exemplified in the artist’s statue of the Little Dancer Aged Fourteen exhibited in the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation in Athens. The Little Dancer’s name was Marie van Goethem… and she was a young student at the Paris Opéra Ballet School. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-EdgarDegas.pdf and https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

Adolescent Marie, according to Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation experts, is presented standing in a dynamic but relaxed way, her feet in the “fourth position,” her hands held behind her back, the head slightly raised, and the entire appearance revealing all the ambiguity of an adolescent figure deformed by the dancing practice. The thinness of her body, the possible malnutrition suggested by a slightly swollen belly, does not diminish the girl’s sensuality, whose proud position, almost with an air of defiance, may seem, according to observers, dignified, provocative, or despisingI rise / Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear / I risehttps://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (back view), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen
Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (side view), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/artwork/degas-edgar-little-dancer-aged-fourteen

Degas worked on Little Dancer Aged Fourteen for more than two years. He first created an armature of metal, wood, wire, rope, and two long paintbrushes for the dancer’s shoulders. Then, he modeled the figure first with clay to define the muscles, and then he modeled the final layer of the sculpture in wax. It was not enough… He dressed the statue in real ballet satin slippers, a linen bodice, a muslin tutu, and a wig of human hair, braided and tied with a ribbon. Finally, to complete the illusion, a coat of wax spread smoothly with a spatula over the surface of the sculpture, giving it an overall waxy,  lifelike look. After Degas died in 1917, copies of this wax figure were cast in plaster and bronze, and Little Dancer Aged Fourteen grew in fame around the world. https://www.nga.gov/content/dam/ngaweb/Education/learning-resources/an-eye-for-art/AnEyeforArt-EdgarDegas.pdf

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Edgar Degas, French Artist, 1834 – 1917
Little Dancer Aged Fourteen (Museum Hall view), circa 1878-1881, Bronze with brown patina, tulle skirt and satin ribbon on wooden base, Cast by A. A. Hébrard, Paris, circa 1922, 96.5×47×35 cm, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Athens, Greece
https://goulandris.gr/en/visit/be-athens