Tuesday, December 25, 2018

COLOR BLIND: Ironic Racism in Roman Art

The subtitle of Margeret Talbot's The New Yorker article "Color Blind" is: "Scholars have known for centuries that Greek and Roman marble figures were routinely covered in bright [white] paint. Why does the myth of their whiteness persist?"

In the text of the article, Talbot shared: "For centuries, archeologists and museum curators had been scrubbing away these traces of color before presenting statues and architectural reliefs to the public."

This was and is done because there's: "[...] a tendency to equate whiteness with beauty, taste, and classical ideals, and to see color as alien, sensual, and garish."

This behavior is ironic since, in general, the Romans practiced classism as opposed to racism. Talbot referenced Sarah Bond, a University of Iowa classics professor, who wrote in a Forbes essay: "[...] the Romans generally differentiated people of color on their cultural and ethnic background rather than the color of their skin [...]"

And Talbot wrote: "[...] though ancient Greeks and Romans certainly noticed skin color, they did not practice systemic racism. They owned slaves, but this population was drawn from a wide range of conquered peoples, including Gauls and Germans."

"Pale skin on a woman was considered a sign of beauty and refinement, because it showed that she was privileged enough not to have to work outdoors. But a man with pale skin was considered unmasculine: bronzed skin was associated with the heroes who fought on battlefields and competed as athletes, naked, in amphitheaters."