What Were the Colors of Ancient Persia? Alexander Nagel Could Tell You

Color squares against a stone face
Color squares against an ancient stone relief.

Alexander Nagel, assistant chair of History of Art, co-authored a new public access article on pigment in ancient Iran. “An Achaemenid God in Color,” published December in the peer-reviewed journal Heritage, examines a fragment of a limestone relief from ancient Persepolis, in modern-day Iran. The work, which has been in the Harvard Art Museum since 1943, has kept significant traces of its original coloration, and recently yielded new data on the pigments that were used to color the relief, shedding new light on what the original could have looked like in its prime.

The article is of a theme with research Nagel recently laid out in his book, Color and Meaning in the Art of Achaemenid Persia, published last year by Cambridge University Press.

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