Hercules in White: Classical Reception, Art and Myth

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    Abstract

    It is by now well documented both that classical sculpture was originally polychromic and that this fact has been systematically suppressed in Western art since the Renaissance. The artificial whiteness of classical sculpture fits within a tradition of presenting false racial narratives of the Greco-Roman historical past and mythology, one that codes all idealised bodies as white, young, and hetero-normative. Those from outside these parameters – particularly that of whiteness, which is visually exploited through sculpture - are explicitly excluded, with the result that in reception, the truth of their bodies is removed from or re-coded within their mythologies, to better align with the faulty narrative they now exist within. This in turn destabilises their context as figures in myth and undermines the significance of modern marginal identities as creators or experiencers of those mythologies, whose inheritance is denied through the denial of the marginal in ancient mythology. In this paper, through the example of receptions of the Farnese Hercules, I explore why colour and its lack have been weaponised as a way for Western culture to claim an inheritance from the ancient Greco-Roman world, and how this is perpetuated in modern classical reception.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalThe Jugaad Project
    Publication statusPublished - 23 Jun 2020

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