The Color of the Other: Importing Multi-colored Marble and Roman Constructions of the “Barbarian”

This week over at Hyperallergic, Sean Burrus and I published a co-written article on the use of variegated marbles (which have particolored and mottled veins that give it color) in order to orientalize and illustrate Roman ideas of the “barbarian.” As per usual, I like to take to my own blog to discuss new essays, since it is here that I can provide a bit more context, bibliography, and pictures. Let’s talk about polychromatic marbles, barbarians, orientalizing through color — and how these elements helped Romans depict “the other.”

The “Farnese Leopard” from the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli is done in pavonnazo marble in order to give the exotic animal its spots. It is an early imperial sculpture (image via Wikimedia taken by Marie-Lan Nguyen and is under a CC BY 2.5 license).
The 1st c. CE “captive barbarian” from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (Photo by Sarah E. Bond).
The public label for the 1st c. CE “captive barbarian” made of marble from the island of Skyros at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
The Potenza Valley Project (University of Ghent) has put together a composite image of all the ancient colored stones found in the northern Italian city of Trea (Figure 8. in their original post is here).
The two “kneeling barbarians” in the Farnese sculpture collection at the MANN in Naples are likely from the early first century CE (image via Wikimedia by I saw Nina Fly under a CC-BY-SA 2.0).
Chryselephantine sculpture likely of Apollo, Archaic period, Ionian workshop, 6th century BCE, Delphi, Archaeological Museum (image via Flickr by Egisto Sani under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
An opus sectile mosaic of a charioteer (with some rather spooked horses) from the 4th c. CE. Now at Palazzo Massimo in Rome (Photo by Sarah E. Bond).
A second century ‘Nilotic scene’ mosaic from the Aventine Hill in Rome, now at Palazzo Massimo alle Terme (Photo by Sarah E. Bond).

Associate Professor of History at the University of Iowa. Ancient History, Digital Humanities, and Public History For All. Thoughts are my own, y'all.

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