Published online by Cambridge University Press: 25 November 2022
On Sunday, September 2, 1934, the New York Times announced the discovery of a stack of wooden panels painted with vibrant colors (Figures 44 and 45). Anastassios Orlandos had found these small panel paintings deep inside a cavern lined with stalactites, at Ano Pitsa, near Corinth, in the Peloponnese. The headline read “Plaques Found at Pitsa: Blue, Yellow and Green Shown on Painted Wood.”1 Its emphasis on the colors painted onto the wooden panels positioned the discovery within ongoing debates about the presence or absence of colors in ancient Mediterranean art and language. Orlandos’s discovery of material colors on partly intact paintings merited column inches in a newspaper across the Atlantic for several reasons. First, antiquarian debates as well as academic research about colors in ancient Mediterranean art had continued unabated into the early decades of the twentieth century.2 Second, despite the celebration of ancient Greek painting by ancient authors writing in Greek and Latin, comparatively little material painting survives in the archaeological record. In 1934, that corpus was even smaller than it is today.3 Third, Euro-American nation-states had long claimed and constructed an intellectual, structural, and material genealogy back to ancient Greece, and this faraway discovery of ancient Greek colors – blues, yellows, and greens – undermined the dominant impression of monochrome edifices.4
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