Culture

Professor: White-Marble Sculpture Contributes to ‘White Supremacy’

Apollo of the Belvedere (Photo: Ruslan Gilmanshin/Dreamstime)
Can seeing white-marble sculpture really “influence white supremacist ideas”?

According to an essay penned by a University of Iowa professor, seeing white-marble sculpture “continues to influence white supremacist ideas,” and it’s a shame that this is “often ignored.

The essay, titled “Why We Need to Start Seeing the Classical World in Color,” has a sub-headline that declares that “the equation of white marble with beauty is not an inherent truth of the universe; it’s a dangerous construct that continues to influence white supremacist ideas today.”

The author, a classics professor named Sarah E. Bond, explains that even though “most museums and art history textbooks contain a predominantly neon white display of skin tone when it comes to classical statues and sarcophagi,” “many of the statues, reliefs, and sarcophagi created in the ancient Western world were in fact painted,” with marble being “considered a canvas, not the finished product for sculpture.”

“The exalting of white (and unpainted) marble was then an 18th century construct of beauty rather than the representative of the classical view,” Bond further explained in an e-mail to Campus Reform.

“One of the most influential art historians of the era was Johann Joachim Winckelmann. He produced two volumes recounting the history of ancient art, Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (1764), which were widely read and came to form a foundation for the modern field of art history,” Bond writes in her essay. “These books celebrate the whiteness of classical statuary and cast the Apollo of the Belvedere — a Roman marble copy of a Hellenistic bronze original — as the quintessence of beauty.”

Now, all of that is interesting enough. I certainly can admit that I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about classical sculpture (sorry), and, sure, it’s a good thing to know that a lot of it was painted. Where Bond loses me, however, is her assertion that a common misconception about the colors of ancient sculptures “has an impact on the way we view the antique world” and that that “impact” is the spread of enduring white-supremacist views.

‘It may have taken just one classical statue to influence the false construction of race.’ — Sarah E. Bond

But Bond disagrees. In fact, she states that “it may have taken just one classical statue to influence the false construction of race” — to make people actually think that everyone in the Mediterranean was white and/or that it’s better to be white — and that although she is “not suggesting that we go, with a bucket in hand, and attempt to repaint every white marble statue across the country,” there should be “better museum signage, the presentation of 3D reconstructions alongside originals, and the use of computerized light projections can help produce a contextual framework for understanding classical sculpture as it truly was.” That should, presumably, work to diminish all of that racism.

Most Popular

South Park as Healing Mechanism

It didn’t take too long into 2020 for people on Twitter to start earnestly debating whether South Park, an extremely popular show that has been on air for decades, has been wreaking havoc on our society with its offensiveness. As far as I can tell, the conversation started with a series of tweets from She-Hulk ... Read More

South Park as Healing Mechanism

It didn’t take too long into 2020 for people on Twitter to start earnestly debating whether South Park, an extremely popular show that has been on air for decades, has been wreaking havoc on our society with its offensiveness. As far as I can tell, the conversation started with a series of tweets from She-Hulk ... Read More
Elections

RIP Bloomberg 2020

I thought that Bloomberg’s confused half-defense of stop-and-frisk was going to be his low point. Well. His torturous response on his lawsuits and NDAs was truly awful -- beyond incompetent. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the end of Bloomberg 2020. Read More
Elections

RIP Bloomberg 2020

I thought that Bloomberg’s confused half-defense of stop-and-frisk was going to be his low point. Well. His torturous response on his lawsuits and NDAs was truly awful -- beyond incompetent. I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the end of Bloomberg 2020. Read More
Elections

At the Debate, Only Losers

To be honest, I’d almost forgotten what they were like. Wednesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate was revealing: Mike Bloomberg was revealed to be unprepared, something for which a man with his resources has no possible excuse; Amy Klobuchar was revealed to be a stammering daisy, her big moment ... Read More
Elections

At the Debate, Only Losers

To be honest, I’d almost forgotten what they were like. Wednesday’s Democratic presidential primary debate was revealing: Mike Bloomberg was revealed to be unprepared, something for which a man with his resources has no possible excuse; Amy Klobuchar was revealed to be a stammering daisy, her big moment ... Read More