They're Not White!
April 4, 2019 7:00 AM   Subscribe

 
Previously.
posted by automatronic at 7:14 AM on April 4, 2019


This is so clever. Samantha Bee is the best and thanks for the intro to the Lucas Brothers.
posted by bluesky43 at 7:19 AM on April 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Also previously, and more previously.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:00 AM on April 4, 2019


They solved racism!
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:07 AM on April 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


Ugh, that comment of mine looks weird out of context. Explanation: it's a line from the segment, and it made me laugh.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:16 AM on April 4, 2019 [7 favorites]


It only looks weird to anyone wanting to comment who hasn't watched the video. *looks around intently with notepad and pen in hand*
posted by hippybear at 8:20 AM on April 4, 2019 [19 favorites]


On the one hand, I think the visuals muddied or at least potentially misled for a few moments there with the shots of the bronzes being washed and brushed (bronzes weren't painted, instead polished and also inlaid with metals, gems, etc.)--we're talking about painted marble here, not bronze. But on the other hand, it wasn't very many shots, and the real point still seemed clear (plus I do love seeing ancient bronze statues all gussied up. ♥ ).

I am always entirely down for busting that old tired supremacist myth of Classical Whiteness, because fuck them, uggggh. And these guys were funny. "Don't ask me, man--ask the white lady." "Hey." "Hey, white lady!"

I think the string of "previously"s above helps illustrate how tenacious and pernicious the 'gleaming white classical marble statue' idea is, because even though art historians and classicists similar have known this for a long time, it keeps having to be re-announced and "re-discovered".
posted by theatro at 8:34 AM on April 4, 2019 [4 favorites]


I didn't see any bronzes in the video, so maybe you can point out what you're talking about?
I think the moments you're talking about are parody moments of white marble being airbrushed with darker skin paint, not of statues being cleaned.
posted by hippybear at 8:41 AM on April 4, 2019


I don't even think those were parody moments. I think those were people painting casts of statues to show what their original colors were. See this New Yorker article, previously discussed here.
posted by timdiggerm at 9:19 AM on April 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure that they were bronzes being washed and painted. This is the website for the museum that is cited in the video, the bronzes are about 3/4 of the way down.
posted by Celatone at 9:25 AM on April 4, 2019


Bronzes in video-

2:08 is one of the two Riace bronzes. 2:13 is the Boxer at Rest.

(In post-view - what Celatone said.)
posted by BWA at 9:26 AM on April 4, 2019


“How did the cops know which chariot to pull over?”

Hahaaaaa

sigh
posted by sio42 at 10:35 AM on April 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


As an artist I'd like to think artists at the time were at least painting with a bit more realistic texture and gradients than just the flat pigments the recreations have (which i guess depends on just how thorough/sensitive the tech is for figuring out which pigments were in which places on the statues). It would be weird to make such realistic sculptures but not match with appropriate colors.
posted by picklenickle at 11:17 AM on April 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


A lovely clip that is (partially) filmed in my favorite place in the galaxy, the Greek and Roman wing of the Met!
posted by lefty lucky cat at 11:58 AM on April 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


This is a serious question: Greek/Roman art aside, do you Americans just not see medieval and Renaissance European art because it's too Catholic or your art history courses suck or *what*?

Because here we've had painted sculpture from before the Romans.
posted by sukeban at 1:43 PM on April 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


(I wanted to link to the British Museum's clever use of light mapping in the Ashurbanipal exhibition, but haven't been able to find better videos than this twitter thread. I found these two blog posts from them about color reconstructions of Roman figurines and a cool Horus in Roman military uniform)
posted by sukeban at 1:54 PM on April 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


it would be so great if all these galleries full of white statues would also display a copy or an image of each statue in it's original colours.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:55 PM on April 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


This is a serious question: Greek/Roman art aside, do you Americans just not see medieval and Renaissance European art because it's too Catholic or your art history courses suck or *what*?

Our what now?
posted by pwnguin at 2:16 PM on April 4, 2019 [13 favorites]


I don't know, why are you always so surprised by polychrome sculpture? I mean, here you go to a church and Jesus looks like this (that's the Baroque Cristo de Medinaceli in Madrid and that's real clothes and human hair).
posted by sukeban at 2:23 PM on April 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


I can't speak for pwnguin, but I believe the point being made is that most US citizens don't receive any classes on art history. (Hell, I only had one because I wanted one for personal enrichment. In college.)

Expanding on that a sec: plenty of people here don't go to Catholic churches, and those that do wouldn't necessarily make the jump to 'lots of cultures paint statues' versus 'oh it's just a Catholic thing.'
posted by mordax at 2:54 PM on April 4, 2019 [6 favorites]


Also, I don't think a lot of us (Americans) make much distinction between classical and neoclassical. I mean, anything that's >100 years old is just history, period. The neoclassical movement is European, simple, elegant, and pretty darn white. I mean that in both the caucasian and the "not painted" sense. I actually suspect that's what the neo-nazis are referencing when they reference "antiquity." They mean the style that Thomas Jefferson designed Monticello in. They aren't referring to actual antiquity, they're referring to ideas about antiquity that were current in the 1800's.
posted by selfmedicating at 3:34 PM on April 4, 2019 [9 favorites]


Also, I don't think a lot of us (Americans) make much distinction between classical and neoclassical.

Thank you. It had never clicked for me, how Italian and Greek people are supposed to stand in for 'white' culture in the US, and yet, at the same time, the whiteness of Italian americans and Greek americans is usually suspect or contingent.

And then there's that whole thing where people in the USA claim Italian, Native American, and/or Greek ancestry in order to pass, or avoid talking about their black relatives and ancestry.

Racism is so weird
posted by eustatic at 4:15 PM on April 4, 2019 [10 favorites]


This is a serious question: Greek/Roman art aside, do you Americans just not see medieval and Renaissance European art because it's too Catholic or your art history courses suck or *what*?

Art history isn't really taught unless you seek it out, we don't have a very vibrant museum culture here, and unlike in Europe, you can't just wander around a city that's been around for 1000 years with the cultural experience that gives you just from the architecture, art, etc.

The US is an incredibly culturally shallow place. That was one of the big reverse-culture-shock things I had after living as an exchange student in Germany for a year. You don't realize how shallow it is until you've lived somewhere that's culturally deep.
posted by hippybear at 6:01 PM on April 4, 2019 [5 favorites]


how Italian and Greek people are supposed to stand in for 'white' culture in the US, and yet, at the same time, the whiteness of Italian americans and Greek americans is usually suspect or contingent.

Yes! I'm part Greek, so I've thought about this a lot. I feel like the neoclassical "western civilization" story exists to obscure the fact that Egyptian and Middle Eastern people contributed so much to art, science, & engineering at a time when most of Europe was living like peasants in a Monty Python movie. (I love this Onion article, "Historians Admit to Inventing Ancient Greeks.")

Racism is so weird

I also think a lot of American Greeks & Italians embraced the idea because of what one of the Lucas brothers says in the video clip -- there's a minor league system for whiteness. So the bargain Mediterranean people struck with whiteness was this: let us into the club, you can have Aristotle, and we promise to close the door behind us and police the perimeter. This theory is based on something Ta-Nahesi Coates said about the definition of whiteness perpetually changing, and also on having super duper racist elderly Greek & Italian relatives.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:29 PM on April 4, 2019 [10 favorites]


I don't know, why are you always so surprised by polychrome sculpture?

We have no mandatory art history at all. We're not surprised by colored statues per se. It's just that we only see the statues as they are. The painted statues are painted. The white statues are white. We just assume they've always been like that. There's no thought about statues once being colored and then the paint fading away.
posted by picklenickle at 7:40 PM on April 4, 2019 [2 favorites]


Several thumbs up.
posted by phenylphenol at 8:01 PM on April 4, 2019


(OK then. Here in Spain art history is an obligatory subject for all students either as itself or inside the history curriculum at school and high school levels. Not every kid can explain what are the characteristics of mannerism but they all should be able to tell romanesque from baroque and classical from neoclassical. At least when it's not too difficult.)
posted by sukeban at 10:41 PM on April 4, 2019


My dears, absolutely everything feeds into white supremacist thought without any historical basis. Even the concept itself of a 'white' identity is a product and driver of white supremacy.
posted by seraphine at 3:29 AM on April 5, 2019


I see someone who has not watched the video has commented! *makes notes*
posted by hippybear at 7:12 AM on April 5, 2019 [2 favorites]


So, the White Supremist guys now are the alt.white?

Cool.
posted by mule98J at 2:28 PM on April 6, 2019


While the statues may have lost their colour, there are many classical frescos and mosaics that are still bright - and they show a diversity of skin tones as one would expect from around the Mediterranean basin.

here's a late classical (practically medieval) examples.
posted by jb at 6:47 PM on April 6, 2019


See also
posted by y2karl at 7:04 AM on April 7, 2019


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