Polychromy

Polychromy

ˈpälēˌkrōmē

Noun

  • The art of painting in several colors, especially as applied to ancient pottery, sculpture, and architecture.

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Example Sentences

“The artist’s use of vivid polychromy is what makes his sculptures so unique.”

“The ruins retain no traces of their original polychromy.”

“Evidence of polychromy can be found in shards of pottery and on some preserved walls.”

Word Origin

Greek, mid-19th century

Why this word?

The word “polychromy” comes from the Greek “polukhrōmos,” which pairs “polu” (“many”) and “khroma” (“color”). While many Greco-Roman buildings and sculptures are famously depicted in flawless white marble, the ancient world was much more colorful than these images portray. Ancient artists used polychromy to decorate their creations in vivid hues, but many of these colors either faded due to environmental factors or were scrubbed off over time. In 2022 and 2023, the Metropolitan Museum of Art featured an exhibit called “Chroma,” in which painted re-creations of statues were displayed with the blanched originals to approximate what they may have looked like in their polychromic glory.

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