The Northwest Palace of Ashur-nasir-pal II at Nimrud
An Interactive Publication -- Prototype
page added March 21, 2001
RELIEF F-2 PAINT ANALYSIS
Assistant Conservator, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Pigment study on the Williams College Museum of Art Bird-headed Genius (museum catalogue #1851.2)
Faint traces of black and red pigments were found on the surface of the 9th c. BCE alabaster relief of a bird-headed genius in the Williams College Museum of Art. Although very little paint remains, it was possible to remove a few particles of pigment from three locations on the sculpted surface: (1) a long vertical red line running up the right edge of the slab, (2) black in the lowest feather, second from the right edge of the slab, and (3) black from the left foot's sandal strap. Samples of black and red pigments were also taken from the Williams human-headed genius for purposes of comparison. Analyses were carried out to identify optical as well as chemical characteristics, yielding the following results:
Both black pigments have been identified on other sculptures from Mesopotamia (including the other slab at the Williams College Museum); we may confidently assume that the elements on which these pigments were found were painted black.
To date, we have not
found enough color to perform tests that could lead to an identification
of the medium. The pigment analyses of the bird-headed genius allow us
to reconstruct a certain minimum of its original polychromy: black feathers,
and black sandal straps. It is likely that other colors had been
applied; these are reconstructed here based on the colors found on similar
works of art.