Red and Blue in Architecture and Artwork

– Joannes Richter -

Fig. 1: Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi We are admiring the bright and white marble sculptures, but we forget they merely represent the carriers of the religious colours red & blue...

Fig. 2: Augustus of Prima Porta

Red and Blue
There is a strange imbalance between red & blue-combinations and other basic colours like green and yellow. The imbalance has been identified from the earliest forms of Jewish, Greek and Roman cultures. Greek temples were, as a rule, colourfully painted. Only three basic colours, with no shades, were used: white, blue and red, occasionally also black. Similar combinations purple, blue and red have been documented as (25 and 3) divine commands for garments and decorative elements in Exodus and Chronicles. Roman masonic rules probably have been initiated by Numa Pompilius as early as 700BC – probably as copies of the Greek traditions, which included an overwhelming number of red & blue combinations. Especially alternating red & blue-decorations dominated, which indicates a correlation to antipodes like the opposite genders male & female – which may have been applied to symbolize the religious fertility elements. From a statistical standpoint the archaic temples should reveal equal amounts of green and yellow. This however cannot be observed in any sacred area. The only key in solving this enigma is the idea that red & blue (including purple) must have been symbolizing the fundamentals for all mayor archaic forms of religion.

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The red & blue symbolism has not been terminated at the introduction of Christianity. Instead the symbolism continued and flowered at the Middle Age in illuminated Bibles, royal garments and decorative elements up to the flags in modern eras. Red & blue are still being used as symbols, even if their keys have been lost for the majority of its' users... The use of red & blue in special fields such as illuminated Bibles, paintings, gender symbols or e.g. freemasonry has been documented in the following Scribd-publications: • • • • • • • • • • • • • Gender References for Purple, Red and Blue The Fundamental Color Symbols Blue and Red Paint It Purple - A short History of painting Red and Blue Blue and Red in Notitia Dignitatum Red and Blue in the Middle Age Blue and Red Symbolism in Freemasonary Capita Selecta for the religious symbols Red and Blue Genesis - Weaving the Words in Red and in Blue Blue and Red in Medieval Garments, Blue and Red in Roermond Red and Blue as Gender Symbols Red and Blue in British Royalty Coloured Idols

Overall chronological reviews have been composed in The Hermetic Codex, in The Fundamental Color Symbols Blue and Red. Other manuscripts are listed in the appendix of The Hermetic Codex

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Colours for Greek Temples1
Greek temples were, as a rule, colourfully painted. Only three basic colours, with no shades, were used: white, blue and red, occasionally also black. The crepidoma, columns and architrave were mostly white. Only details, like the horizontally cut grooves at the bottom of Doric capitals (anuli), or decorative elements of Doric architraves (e.g. taenia and guttae) might be painted in different colours. The frieze was clearly structured by use of colours. In a Doric triglyph frieze, blue triglyphs alternated with red metopes, the latter often serving as a background for individually painted sculptures. Reliefs, ornaments and pedimental sculptures were executed with a wider variety of colours and nuances. Recessed or otherwise shaded elements, like mutules or triglyph slits could be painted black. Paint was mostly applied to parts that were not load-bearing, whereas structural parts like columns or the horizontal elements of architrave and geison were left unpainted (if made of high quality limestone or marble) or covered with a white stucco. Some of the examples may demonstrate the alternating use of red & blue in decorations, which also is to be found in the illuminated medieval Bibles.

1

Source Wikipedia: Greek Temples

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The intensive use of red & blue combinations cannot be considered as pure decorative elements. Associated with biblical commands in colouring elements for the Covenant Tent and Solomon's Temple we must consider similar prescriptions and conventions for the masons, who were in charge for the Greek and Roman temples and sculptures. Numa Pompilius, king of Rome, installed a religious cult for Janus, a bipolar deity – along with Jupiter one of the earliest and most important of all Roman deities. According to Macrobius and Cicero, Janus and Jana (Diana) are a pair of divinities, worshipped as the sun and moon, whence they were regarded as the highest of the gods, and received their sacrifices before all the others. Probably Numa Pompilius initiated the symbolism for Roman architecture by copying the colour symbols from the Greeks and/or other archaic religions, which applied the sun and the moon, symbolized by the colours red, respectively blue. If Numa "forbade the Romans to represent the deity in the form either of man or of beast2” he may have chosen to use colours for symbolizing the bipolar divine concept.

Numa Pompilius
Numa Pompilius (753-673 BC; king of Rome, 715-673 BC) was the legendary second king of Rome, succeeding Romulus. One of Numa's first acts was the construction of a temple of Janus as an indicator of peace and war. The temple was constructed at the foot of the Argiletum, a road in the city.
2

Plutarch tells of the early religion of the Romans, that it was imageless and spiritual.

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After securing peace with Rome's neighbours, the doors of the temples were shut and remained so for all the duration of Numa's reign, a unique case in Roman history. Little is known about the temple of Janus, the two-faced god of boundaries (Aedes Janus) which no longer exists, but it appears on Neronian coins. The temple stood along the Argileto, the ancient road that separated the Basilica Aemilia and the Curia Julia, where this road entered the Forum Romanum. Plutarch tells of the early religion of the Romans, that it was imageless and spiritual. He says Numa "forbade the Romans to represent the deity in the form either of man or of beast. Nor was there among them formerly any image or statue of the Divine Being; during the first one hundred and seventy years they built temples, indeed, and other sacred domes, but placed in them no figure of any kind; persuaded that it is impious to represent things Divine by what is perishable, and that we can have no conception of God but by the understanding".3 Numa in his regulation of the Roman calendar called the first month Januarius after Janus, at the time the highest divinity. Numa also introduced the Ianus geminus (also Janus Bifrons, Janus Quirinus or Portae Belli), a passage ritually opened at times of war, and shut again when Roman arms rested. It formed a walled enclosure with gates at each end, situated in the Roman Forum which had been consecrated by Numa Pompilius. In the course of wars, the gates of the Janus were opened, and in its interior sacrifices and vaticinia were held to forecast the outcome of military deeds. The doors were closed only during peacetime, an extremely rare event.
3

Source: Numa Pompilius and Plutarch, The Parallel Lives-The Life of Numa chapter 8-7

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Livy wrote in his Ab urbe condita that the doors of the temple had only been closed twice since the reign of Numa: firstly in 235 BC after the first Punic war and secondly in after the battle of Actium in 31 BC. A temple of Janus is said to have been consecrated by the consul Gaius Duilius in 260 BCE after the Battle of Mylae in the Forum Holitorium. The four-side structure known as the Arch of Janus in the Forum Boarium dates to the 4th century CE. In the Middle Ages, Janus was also taken as the symbol of Genoa, whose Latin name was Ianua, as well as of other European communes. We will start an overview of some Greek-Roman temples at the reconstruction of a temple in Agrigent, Sicily.

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Agrigent, Sicily
In Roman religion, Concordia, "harmony" was the goddess of agreement, understanding, and marital harmony. Marital harmony must be considered as a religious concept. The temple has been dated to 440-430 BC.

Fig. 3: Temple of Concordia, Akragas
Reconstruction of original painted state on a scaffolding covering the Temple of Concordia, Akragas approximately 440-430 BC Agrigent, Valle dei Templi, Concordia-Temple Photograph for Wikipedia by ClemensFranz GNU-Lizenz für freie Dokumentation, Version 1.2

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Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi
The Treasury of the Athenians was erected in 490-489BCE using 1/10th of the spoils from the Battle of Marathon. The oracle told the Athenians to rely on "wooden walls," which they took to mean the ships of their navy. The Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi reveals several red & blue decorations, indicating a religious symbolism of the androgynous category.

Fig. 4: Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi

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Fig. 5: Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi

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Sifnian treasury, Delphi
Most of the sculptures lost their colours. Some of these even may be overlooked at close-ups.

Fig. 6: Sifnian treasury Ancient Greek Relief, Archaeological Museum of Delphi - Sifnian treasury by Fingalo
licence Creative Commons Paternité – Partage des conditions initiales à l’identique 2.0 Allemagne

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Athena-Aphaia Temple at Aegina4
Restored fragments of the west-front of the Athena-Aphaia temple at Aegina (490 before Christ).

Fig. 7: Athena-Aphaia temple at Aegina
4

Coloured Idols

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Although the decorative pattern is dominated by red & blue we may also identify green and golden / yellow. These patterns will also be found in Egyptian artwork.

Fig. 8: Greek warrior from the Temple of Athena Aphaia at Aegina
And belong to the reconstruction of the temple's west-front (exhibition « Bunte Götter », Munich, 2004) Desing: Vinzenze Brinkmann et Hermann Pflug. Painting: Ulrike Koch-Brinkmann. Original: Munich, Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek. All Aphaia-Photographs copied from Wikipedia have been created by Marsyas - Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic license.

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The international exhibition Bunte Götter (“Coloured Gods”), organized by the Munich Glyptothek in 2004, and shown in Istanbul in 2006 and in Athens in 2007 presented a great number of reconstructed artworks. A number (26) of these coloured idols have been documented in the Wikimedia Commons in the Category:Bunte Götter exhibition.

Fig. 9: Trojanic Archer ("Paris") Temple of Aphaia to Aegina

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Fig. 10: Aphaia Greek Archer (detail)

Fig. 11: warrior (an archer ?), from the Acropolis

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Polychrome Art in ancient Greece5
There were several interconnected traditions of painting in ancient Greece. Due to their technical differences, they underwent somewhat differentiated developments. Not all painting techniques are equally well represented in the archaeological record.

Fig. 12: Polychrome classic Greek architecture
"Kunsthistorische Bilderbogen", Verlag E. A. Seemann, Leipzig Wikimedia Commons. 1883

5

See also: Art in ancient Greece#Polychromy: painting on statuary and architecture

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Fig. 13: Polychrome classic Greek architecture
Detail from "Kunsthistorische Bilderbogen", Verlag E. A. Seemann, Leipzig Wikimedia Commons. 1883

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Acropolis Athens6
Apart from the idols, which often are multi-coloured, the most striking coloration is the alternating colouring in red and blue of the tympanum in the Temple of Aphaia. A similar coloured tympanum has also been found at the Acropolis temple as reconstructed in the fries at the British Museum.

Fig. 14: Red/blue-colours at the Acropolis temple
own photograph, British Museum, London

6

Coloured Idols page 18 from 34

Fig. 15: Red/blue-colours at the Acropolis temple
own photograph, British Museum, London7

Reconstruction of the Parthenon8
The frieze was painted with bright colors over a blue background and contained some bronze accessories. Each pediment was 28.8 m wide and 3.4 m high (at its center) and contained more than 25 colored and partly gilded statues on a blue background. These figures were sculptured by Pheidias, Agorakritos and Alkamenes among others. The skin of the statues was painted dark ruddy brown for men and left white for women.
7

This has been an extremely expensive photograph as British Airways got stuck up in a Heathrow Hassle (see the report The Heathrow Hassle)
8

Info from Parthenon page 19 from 34

Some authors suggest that the background of each pediment was red or left natural marble. The pedimental walls were strictly vertical without any inclination.

Fig. 16: Reconstruction of the Parthenon by Kronoskaf
Reconstruction of the Parthenon by Kronoskaf - Snapshot of the real time rendering of the prototype. Courtesy of Kronoskaf.com Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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Red & Blue in Roman Temples
"De architectura libri decem" by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio 9 seems to be the only ancient source for Roman architecture. The work has been devoted to his master emperor Augustus.

Ornamental Colours
Vitruvius describes the colour for the triglyphs in detail (Chapter 2-2): Following the arrangement of timber framing, workmen have imitated, both in stone and marble, the disposition of timbers in sacred edifices, thinking such a distribution ought to be attended to; because some antientº artificers, having laid the beams so that they ran over from the inner face of the walls, and projected beyond their external face, filled up the spaces between the beams, and ornamented the cornices and upper parts with wood-work elegantly wrought. They then cut off the ends of the beams that projected over the external face of the wall, flush with its face; the appearance whereof being unpleasing, they fixed, on the end of each beam so cut, indented tablets, similar to the triglyphs now in use, and painted them with a waxen composition of a blue colour, so that the ends of the beams in question might not be unpleasant to the eye. Thus the ends of the timbers covered with tablets, indented as just mentioned, gave rise to the triglyph and metopa in the Doric order.

9

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio: de Architectura, Book IV

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Blue triglyphs have also been found in the Greek temples and we may assume the Romans copied these traditions from the Greeks. A note to the copyrighted photograph of a reconstructed blue triglyph (designed by Gottfried von Semper) documents the controversy of archaeologists in the past centuries. The only element they agreed on was the triglyphs being blue.

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Augustus of Prima Porta
Augustus of Prima Porta (Italian: Augusto di Prima Porta) is a 2.04m high marble statue of Augustus Caesar which was discovered on April 20, 1863, in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta, near Rome. Augustus Caesar's wife, Livia Drusilla, retired to the villa after his death. The sculpture is now displayed in the Braccio Nuovo of the Vatican Museums.

Fig. 17: Augustus of Prima Porta It is almost certain that the Augustus was originally painted, but so few traces remain today (having been lost in the ground and having faded since discovery) that historians have had to fall back on old watercolours and new scientific investigations for evidence. page 23 from 34

Vincenz Brinkmann of Munich researched the use of color on ancient sculpture in the 1980s using ultraviolet rays to find traces of color. Today, the Vatican Museums have produced a copy of the statue so as to paint it in the theorized original colours, as confirmed when the statue was cleaned in 1999 : it can be viewed here. However, an art historian of the University of St Andrews in Scotland, Fabio Barry, has criticized this reconstitution as unsubtle and exaggerated.

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Peplos Kore (with traces of colour)
The Peplos Kore (with traces of colour) at the Acropolis Museum from ca. 510 BCE has also been identified as a polychrome sculpture.

Fig. 18: Marble Kore Extended Hand
510BC, in the Acropolis Museum, Athena (computer-simulated) colours by Doug Stern

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A painted reconstruction for a „Peploskore“ has been reconstructed at Cambridge. The image may be viewed in the website „Peploskore“ for the Hall of Sculptures (Basel). In paintings and sculptures the artists preferred red and blue in the decorations for garments10.

10

Source: „Skulptur des Monats“ Februar 2004 - Die sogenannte „Peploskore“

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The Nikolai-church at Stralsund
A great many details such as keystones, ribs and fences in (modern or originally) Catholic churches have been decorated in red & blue.

Fig. 19: Blue & red decorations - Stralsund. The photograph illustrates a few decorations after restoration of the Nikolai-church at Stralsund.11 Originally all metallic fences, keystones and roofs in this church had been painted in bright PIE-colours red & blue. Only part of building has been restored up till now (2010).
11

The Indo Europeans - A Ground Zero for Civilisation

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Basilica of Saint Servatius, Maastricht
The portico is a fine example of the combination of red, blue and a minor amount of green, but has been reconstructed 1885 and may deviate from the original.

Fig. 20: Portico of the Basilica of Saint Servatius, Maastricht own work, July 2010

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Nefertiti bust 12
Compared to the Greek artwork we may consider the Picture of the Nefertiti bust in Neues Museum, Berlin, which applies a combination of red, blue and green.

Fig. 21: Nefertiti bust in Neues Museum, Berlin
Zserghei public domain Wikimedia Commons.

12

Coloured Idols

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The Antipodes Red & Blue
Most medieval churches reveal the same red & blue alternating structures that have been reconstructed at the Greek and Roman sculptures and temples. There has been a common idea shared by Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Jewish people – probably even at a global level for the “globe” of archaic eras. Several concepts may have been used to develop the archaic idea of these antipodes. I will try to explain some of these suggestions.

The sun and the moon
Red and blue may have been symbolized by various objects, such as the sun and the moon, and their attributes male, respectively female. A red, male sun and a blue, female moon may have been considered as metaphysical, divine antipodes, which would explain their inclusion in the weekdays Sunday and Monday. The sun and the moon have been considered as partners, which is clearly demonstrated by their role in the alchemical manuscripts such as Atalanta fugiens (1618)13. According to Gary Gilligan14 the Egyptians always have painted the sun as a red disk, except during the 17 years of the strange Aten-religion in the Amarna era.

13 14

Die androgyne Symbolik der Atalanta Fugiens Why was Egypt's Re (Ra) RED and not yellow? By Gary Gilligan – contains numerous examples of red solar discs

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Sexual Organs
In natural biological environments red and blue are exceptional colours, contrasting to the natural elements green and yellow. Biologically plants will prefer green colour for metabolism and additionally brown for their structural (wooden) support, or yellow for the ancient foliage. Red and blue will be reserved for reproduction to attract the various insects. This way the red and blue flowers may be considered as the sexual organs for the plants.

The Rainbow
Probably for biological reasons the red and blue colours are located at the lower respectively upper border of the rainbow's spectre, in which yellow and green as the most useful elements in nature's metabolism are to be found in a central position. Red and blue however are the religious symbols for reproduction, which has been identified as the only way towards eternity.

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Conclusion
The marble statues and bright white architectures we are admiring at our Mediterranean holidays are not the artworks the Greeks and Romans ever intended to create. These pale sparkling artworks are merely the skeletons for the religious symbols they have been carrying. The majority of these ancient sculptures and temples may have been illuminated by bright colours red and blue. The earliest archaic artists probably did not paint their marble sculptures for beauty, but to express the religious symbolism of the early religion, which had been founded on antipodes – probably the genders in a fertility cult - symbolized in a male sun and a female moon. As a remarkable fact we may identify the same symbolic illuminations in medieval churches, illuminated Bibles and similar decorations. Right now most of these symbols have disappeared, worn off by centuries of smoke, dirt and polishing hands. Some of the colours may even have been removed deliberately to eliminate the ancient religious symbols. At the moment the last of the bright Egyptian colours are being removed right now by exposing the fragile artworks to tourists, who are swaying their cameras in the tombs and temples. The intense sunlight and the flash-lights are bleaching the pigments. Within a few decades the temples and tombs will be deprived of their last symbolic colours turning them into the same pale sculptures we are visiting in Rome and Athens.

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And it's true - in Greece, Rome and Asia Minor we are already admiring the bright and white marble sculptures, but we forget they merely represent the carriers of the religious colours red & blue...

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Contents
Red and Blue .............................................................................2 Colours for Greek Temples........................................................4 Numa Pompilius ...................................................................5 Agrigent, Sicily..........................................................................8 Treasury of the Athenians at Delphi..........................................9 Sifnian treasury, Delphi............................................................11 Athena-Aphaia Temple at Aegina............................................12 Polychrome Art in ancient Greece...........................................16 Acropolis Athens......................................................................18 Reconstruction of the Parthenon.........................................19 Red & Blue in Roman Temples...............................................21 Ornamental Colours............................................................21 Augustus of Prima Porta..........................................................23 Peplos Kore (with traces of colour).........................................25 The Nikolai-church at Stralsund..............................................27 Basilica of Saint Servatius, Maastricht....................................28 Nefertiti bust ...........................................................................29 The Antipodes Red & Blue......................................................30 The sun and the moon.........................................................30 Sexual Organs.....................................................................31 The Rainbow.......................................................................31 Conclusion...............................................................................32

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