Medusa’s Colors

A “Gods in Color” Project
With a live workshop presentation

The permanent exhibition currently features a project presentation on the Greek mythological figures Athena and Medusa. It offers visitors a rare opportunity to observe the making of a color reconstruction of the head of Medusa based on an ancient prototype.

About the Project

Specialists at the Liebieghaus were recently given the opportunity to examine the well-preserved coloration of a Greek, late classical burial site, the “Ipogeo dei Cristallini” in Naples. On the central wall of one of the burial chambers is a stone-carved three-dimensional representation of the head of Medusa—a Gorgon, surrounded by a painted aegis, the breastplate of Athena. Various scientific investigations precisely determined the traces of pigments left on the Gorgon figure. Relying on these findings as a basis, a color reconstruction of Medusa’s head will be made in the coming months in a workshop designed especially for this purpose. Only paint materials that are in keeping with the originals from antiquity are being used. The workshop presentation is augmented by other objects from the museum’s holdings depicting myths about Athena and Medusa.

The Myth

In Greek mythology, the conflict between Medusa and Athena ends in death: After being humiliated, a furious Athena transforms the beautiful Medusa into a gruesome creature with predatory teeth, hair made of snakes and a protruding tongue. Later, she helps the hero Perseus kill Medusa, and from then on, she wears a symbol of Medusa’s head on her breastplate. At the Liebieghaus, the world-renowned statue of a goddess, Myron’s Athena—a key work in the Liebieghaus Sculpture Collection—recalls the murder of Medusa. Originally made in bronze, the work was part of a group of figures, a reconstruction of which can now be seen in the museum garden.

Workshop Presentation

Live color reconstruction with archaeologist Dr Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann
Watch the progress of work on the color reconstruction of the head of Medusa, which is based on an ancient prototype. Look over the scientist’s shoulder and join her in conversation. The presentation workshop is located within the permanent exhibition of the Ancient Art Collection.

Dates: Every Wednesday in March and on Thursdays in April, from 4 pm to 6 pm. It will not take place on April 11, but on April 10 instead.
Costs: Participation is included in the cost of admission. No registration is required.

Polychromy Research at the Liebieghaus

For more than 40 years, Prof Dr Vinzenz Brinkmann, Head of the Collections of Antiquities at the Liebieghaus, and archaeologist Dr Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann have been researching the polychromy of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture. As part of the traveling exhibition “Gods in Color—Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity”, the results of their research are captivating the public worldwide. The aim is to convey as accurate a picture as possible of the original statue through the color reconstructions of marble and bronze statues—always supported by scientific research.

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