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The whitewashing of ancient Greek and Roman art

The classicist Sarah Bond from the University of Iowa caused a stir last spring when she published an article on the “whitewashing” of ancient Greek and Roman art. White marble statues have been naturally stripped of their polychromy over time—or were purposefully discoloured in the 18th and 19th centuries due to a romanticised notion of the “purity of white”, she says, which suggests that the ancient Greeks and Romans were a homogenous white people. She argues that a placard of the original polychromy should be displayed alongside “whitewashed” antiquities. In this video, the Vice News Tonight correspondent Jay Caspian Kang heads to the Art Institute of Chicago to unpack this thesis with Bond and other scholars, looking at new technologies to uncover the lost polychromy of ancient sculptures that reveals a racially diverse ancient world.

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