The Colours of Palmyra: Ancient polychromy and the application of new natural-scientific methods

by Postdoc Cecilie Brøns (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek) and Assistant Professor Luise Ørsted Brandt (UrbNet, Aarhus University).

2017.02.01 | Ditte Kvist Johnson

Date Tue 06 Jun
Time 16:00 17:00
Location Antikmuseet, Victor Albecks Vej 3, 8000 Aarhus C


Research on ancient polychromy has so far focused mainly on identifying the individual pigments that were used for the paint. However, the choice of binding media was of great importance for the final nuance and gloss of the colours of ancient sculpture and architecture. Moreover, they allow us to understand the ancient painting techniques and their development and distribution throughout the Mediterranean. Furthermore, knowledge of the organic components of the polychromy allows us to achieve the best possible conservation of ancient painted artefacts.

Until recently, binding media have been identified by methods such as GCMS (Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry) and HPLC (High performance-liquid chromatography). Now, new proteomics methods offer a high resolution approach for identifying proteinous binding media, which allows species identification of binders and studies of their degradation.

The Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek is a leading institution of research on ancient polychromy. In this lecture we outline the study of ancient Mediterranean polychromy, present the studies of the polychromy of the limestone portrait of the so-called ‘Beauty of Palmyra’ in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, and demonstrate state-of-the-art as well as the potentials for future studies of binding media. Moreover we suggest a best practice for future identification of ancient, organic binding media. 

Please be on time, as the doors to the museum will close when the lecture starts.

There will be a stand-up reception after each lecture at the foyer.

The Palmyra Portrait Project is funded by the Carlsberg Foundation and Aarhus University.

For further information, please contact Rubina Raja (    

History and achaeology