Visibility and Impact: The Role of Color on the Parthenon's Ionic Frieze Open Access

Levitan, Rebecca (2013)

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Visibility and Impact: The Role of Color on the Parthenon's Ionic Frieze
By Rebecca Levitan

Considering the painstaking effort, considerable expense, and numerous difficulties that were involved in creating the continuous Ionic frieze of the Parthenon in Athens, its placement far from eye level within the shadowy space of the pteroma seems counterintuitive. In contrast to the pedimental sculptures in the round or the metopes in high relief, both of which would have been visible from afar and clearly illuminated by Mediterranean sunlight, the frieze was created for a shaded, transitive space. For the past century, scholars have been baffled by the so-called "Paradox of the Parthenon Frieze," or why the Athenians made such a significant sculptural investment in a space with limited visual gains.

Greek artists used two tools to enhance the legibility of the frieze: relief carving and the application of pigment to the finished sculptures. Refinements in the carving of the frieze would have lent to its legibility, but they pale in comparison to the effect that color had on the viewer's ability to distinguish the many parts of the composition. In this thesis, I will argue that color provides the critical element that enhances visibility in the Parthenon frieze. This thesis re-evaluates the viewing problem of the Parthenon frieze through a study of the effects of color, and it includes an investigation of the use of polychromy on the Parthenon and the visual effects of these chromatic choices.

An understanding of the strategic use of color on the Ionic frieze has been incorporated into the second part of this thesis: an experiment in practical archaeology. For the experiment, full sized color panels were created to replicate the viewing experience of the northwest corner of the frieze. These frieze panels were installed on a to-scale replica of the complete Parthenon in Nashville, Tennessee, to gauge visibility and the role of color in legibility. The experiment along with this thesis will demonstrate that the role of color was paramount in the viewing experience of the frieze as it was originally conceptualized.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents Text Introduction...1 Chapter One: The Viewing Problem...4 Chapter Two: The Effect of Color...17 Chapter Three: The Experiment...43 Conclusion...62 Figures...63 1.1 The Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis (Creative Commons) 1.2 Ancient quarrying process at Pentelikon (Korres) 1.3 The so-called Preparthenon (Korres) 1.4 Bust of Pericles (Creative Commons) 1.5 Plan of Parthenon, demonstrating octostyle Doric peripteral plan (Korres) 1.6 Metope with depiction of battle between a Lapith and a Centaur (Creative Commons) 1.7 Drawing of the West Frieze Blocks (Beazley Archive) 1.8 Cutaway drawing of the pteroma, displaying location of Ionic frieze (Korres) 1.9 Diagram of Parthenon Frieze Iconography (Neils) 1.10 East Frieze blocks depicting the Peplos ceremony (Creative Commons) 1.11 Cutaway drawing demonstrating location of the Ionic frieze (Neils) 1.12 North side of Parthenon in March, 2013. (Levitan) 1.13 The frieze blocks in the Duveen Gallery. (Creative Commons) 1.14 View of the New Acropolis Museum. (Tschumi) 1.15 Parthenon frieze blocks in the New Acropolis Museum. (New Acropolis Museum) 1.16 Oblique view of frieze blocks, displaying low relief carving (British Museum) 1.17 Blocks S-X and S- XI from the South side of the frieze (Creative Commons) 1.18 Block WII from the West side of the frieze. (Creative Commons) 1.19 Drawing of Sculptors carving the Parthenon Frieze in situ (Korres) 1.20 Block WV (New Acropolis Museum) 1.21 Block EV (British Museum) 1.22 The northwest corner block of the Parthenon frieze. (Creative Commons) 1.23 Steven's drawing of the Parthenon and its double stairway. (Stevens) 1.24 Stillwell's diagram of ideal viewing conditions of the Parthenon Frieze. (Stillwell) 1.25 Casts of the Parthenon frieze as seen through the colonnade. (Creative Commons) 2.1 Detail from Roman fresco, Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii (Creative Commons) 2.2 Quatremère de Quincy's "Le Jupiter Olympien" reconstruction (Creative Commons) 2.3 Reconstruction of the façade of the temple of Aphaia at Aegina (Van Zantan) 2.4 Jacques-Ignace Hittorf's Reconstruction of Temple B at Selinus (Creative Commons) 2.5 Michelangelo's David (Creative Commons) 2.6 Newton's drawings and pigment sample from Halicarnassus. (Van Zantan, Jenkins) 2.7 19TH Century Reconstructions of the Parthenon's Entablature (Van Zantan, CC) 2.8 19th Century Reconstructions of the Parthenon (Van Zantan) 2.9 Preserved Paint on the Sculptures in the British Museum (Jenkins, British Museum) 2.10 Preserved Paint on sculptures in the New Acropolis Museum, Athens. (Vlassopoulou) 2.11 Torso of a Cuirassed Archer (Brinkmann) 2.12 Classical Head with preserved pigment (Copenhagen Polychromy Network) 2.13 Color reconstruction of the East Frieze of the Siphnian Treasury (Brinkmann) 2.14 Architectural fragments from the temple of Aphaia at Aegina (Levitan) 2.15 Details from the archaic korai in Athens (New Acropolis Museum) 2.16 Archaic Peplos Kore (New Acropolis Museum, Creative Commons, Brinkmann) 2.17 Athenian White Ground Lekythos, attributed to the Achilles Painter (Oakley) 2.18 Fragments from Kalyx Krater depicting a Gigantomachy (Michael C. Carlos Museum) 2.19 The Alexander Sarcophagus (Creative Commons) 2.20 The use of different stones on The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Jenkins) 2.21 Kerch Vase, Attributed to the Painter of the Wedding Procession (Getty) 2.22 Tomb of the Judgment at Vergina (Creative Commons, Petsas) 2.23 The Tomb of the Palmettes at Lefkadia (Rhomiopoulou) 2.24 The Tomb at Aghios Athanassios (Rhomiopoulou) 2.25 Life sized soldiers on the tomb at Aghios Athanassios, (Rhomiopoulou) 2.26 Minoan Fresco from Akrotiri, Crete (Creative Commons) 2.27 Apulian Column-Krater with a depiction of an artist painting a marble statue (MMA) 2.28 Ancient Pigments (Brinkmann, Jenkins) 2.29 Differential weathering (Levitan, Jenkins) 2.30 Painted plaster cast of Athena from the Temple of Aphaia at Aegina (Brinkmann) 3.1 The Nashville Parthenon in September, 2012. (Prater) 3.2 The Nashville Centennial celebration in 1897 (Nashville Parks Service) 3.3 Reconstructing Nashville Parthenon in permanent materials (Nashville Parks Service) 3.4 Alan LeQuire with the Athena Sculpture (Le Quire) 3.5 Bird netting at the Nashville Parthenon (Jiang) 3.6 The frieze course of the Nashville Parthenon (Jiang) 3.7 The colored canvas panels created by the Emory Team, before the experiment. (Cupello) 3.8 Overlapping riders on the Ionic frieze (Jenkins) 3.9 Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to His Friends, Lawrence Alma-Tadema (CC) 3.10 The British Museum's reconstruction of the northwest corner of the frieze. (Jenkins) 3.11 The British Museum's reconstruction of a frieze block (Jenkins) 3.12 Photograph of Block NXLVII (British Museum) 3.13 Line drawing of block NXLVII (Neils) 3.14 Projection of block NXLVII (Levitan) 3.15 Priming canvases (Wescoat) 3.16 Matching blue paint to color samples of ancient pigments. (Levitan) 3.17 Horse from the Tomb of Eurydike at Vergina (Brekoulaki) 3.18 Application of base color for the horses to the canvas panels (Wescoat) 3.19 Application of color to frieze panels (Levitan) 3.20 Sandal from Delian terracotta and frieze panel (Brekoulaki, Levitan) 3.21 The foam relief panel on the day of the experiment (Tsakirgis) 3.22 Specialty lift used for installation of panels (Tennesean, Jiang) 3.23 Installing the frieze panels using velcro and a paint roller. (Cupello) 3.24 The lightboxes which prevented the contiguous installation of WII and WIII (Cupello) 3.25 The frieze panels installed in place (Cupello) 3.26 Visitors to the Nashville Parthenon complete the survey. (Cupello) Works Cited and Consulted...112 Appendices 1 Emory Parthenon Project Team..119 2 Sample Survey...120 3 Written Response in the "Final Thoughts" Section of the Survey...124 4 Further Information on the Emory Parthenon Frieze Project...128

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