A study of marble and wood - How artists in the past have overcome the monochromatic natures of their medium
From Stone Age cavemen, who did not have the knowledge to produce many pigments, to Renaissance patrons, who may not have had enough money to acquire the most glamorous pigments, to rather more recent contemporary artists, who made stylistic choices of a monochrome canvas, we can find in our past an ebb and flow of the use of colour in art. Rather than with painting, where the colours themselves form the work, with sculpture the problems are augmented by the restriction of the base material itself being the work, therefore meaning applying colour over the piece. In a select few Greek sculptures, surface colouration is still visible to the naked eye, particularly in the kore and The Blond Boy visible in the Acropolis Museum in Athens, where the robe ties and the hair have remnants of colour (hence the latter’s title). However, Renaissance sculptors did not replicate the objects that were made in Ancient Greece but that which they saw in sixteenth century Rome, after most colouration had disappeared and they were stripped back to the original off-white stone or Pentelic marble. This explains the recoil to a more naturalistic, simplistic depiction of art, where white ‘evoked associations with the artistic achievement of the ancient world’. the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, commissioned by Cardinal Federico Cornaro in 1645 for his family chapel in Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome, showcases Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s artistic ability. The creation of a theatrical surrounding, of decorative gilded wood and interplays of light and architecture, and an emotionally and visually brilliant white marble scene. Juan Martinez Montañes and an unknown polychromer, just forty years earlier in their 1603 sculpture of Christ on the Cross provide similarities to the Ecstasy in the use of external materials to enhance the experience obtained by the viewer, and also valid juxtaposition with an elongated, polychromed wooden structure.