Scenario 1 – Disappearing or Lost Polychromy

This first scenario is dedicated to the problem of the Loss of polychromy, especially in classical sculptures. Archaeological museums, in fact, often own collections of statues and architectures that were originally coloured. Unfortunately, only tiny traces of these colours are still visible and what is left needs to be preserved carefully. Although it is complex to reconstruct their original appearance, institutions believe that it is also crucial to offer a correct understanding, training visitors’ eyes to recognise those original colours, avoiding dangerous misunderstanding supporting ideologies.

What matters are the shades of colours, their perception and their semantics. The reliability of digital reconstructions and the authenticity of digital experiences is crucial. Disappearing polychromy is also an amazing occasion to make visitors reflect on the diversity of these shades of colours, developing a new perception on European modern society, through these artworks.

The Archaeological Museum of Naples (MANN) and the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) have extensively worked on this problem. Unfortunately, the examples of polychromy reconstruction are still very few, and this depends also on the long and costly processes required today. These reconstructive studies make use of analytical investigation results, comparisons with similar but better conserved artworks (i.e., painted mummy portraits or terracotta statues etc.) and experts knowledge on ancient techniques and materials.

Although since today there is no a common protocol of investigations on ancient polychromy dealing also with the preservation of traces of colour, PERCEIVE aims at developing a shared method and speed up the process thanks to image processing methods (IBM) and Machine Learning approaches (AI). The goal is to obtain, when possible, reliable reconstructions of the original polychromy and, when not enough data are at disposal, to communicate to the general public, the scientific process, behind the study of residual polychromy.

The twofold goals are in fact to train the visitor’s eye to recognise the colours, improving their knowledge and understanding and, at the same time, to develop a citizen sense of care, through the strengthening of a sense of wonder for those artworks, without forgetting about the authenticity of the original collection and about the experience itself. Moreover, we believe that there is a strong need to extend civic participation, involving citizens also outside museums (home and street access), developing a new Open Museum concept.

Two case studies have been selected: