Object in Focus: The Orpheus Relief Project is a collaboration between the Georgia Museum of Art and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Georgia and the University of Mississippi Museum. Running September 30, 2012, to March 31, 2013, the project involves the public exhibition and interdisciplinary study of an important but little-known ancient marble relief sculpture with vestiges of ancient painting. The youthful figure of Hermes, the Greek messenger god, survives from a larger, three-figured composition depicting the god escorting Eurydice to the Underworld during her final parting from Orpheus. This larger composition, known as the Orpheus Relief, is one of the most celebrated examples of Greek sculpture from the High Classical period, ca. 450-400 BC.
In antiquity, Greek and Roman marble sculpture was not pristine white but colorfully painted. The exhibited relief is the only replica of the Orpheus Relief known to preserve remains of ancient coloration. This includes a readily visible red pigment on Hermes’ garments.
This sculpture is on loan from the David M. Robinson Memorial Collection of Greek and Roman Art at the University of Mississippi Museum to facilitate its interdisciplinary art historical study within the Franklin College of the Arts and Sciences at UGA.
Mark Abbe, Assistant Professor of Ancient Art at UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art, is lead designer of the project and is directing the art historical study of the relief.
Jeff Speakman, Associate Director of the Center for Applied Isotope Studies at UGA, will conduct in situ nondestructive materials analysis by X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy and will direct the characterization of the relief’s white marble.
Tina Salguero, Assistant Professor of Chemistry at UGA, will employ a variety of scientific techniques to characterize the minute amounts of the ancient pigments and binding media on the surface of the relief.
In conjunction with the study and exhibition of the relief the project participants will jointly present the result of their interdisciplinary research at a public lecture and discussion, “The Orpheus Relief: One Object, Three Perspectives” at the Georgia Museum of Art on March 28, 2013, at 5:30 p.m.