Sculpture Journal

Chryselephantine and polychrome: Richard Cockle Lucas and the effect of coloured ivories in mid-Victorian Britain

Sculpture Journal (2014), 23, (2), 159–170.

Abstract

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London holds a largely overlooked collection of 21 ivory carvings from the mid-nineteenth century by the today little-known sculptor Richard Cockle Lucas (1800-83) of which at least nine examples show traces of blue and gold colour pigment. As a highly unusual phenomenon, the colouration is reminiscent of the ancient Greek polychrome and chryselephantine (gold and ivory) sculptures by Phidias rather than medieval polychrome ivories. By examining the background of Lucas's versatile artistic and archaeological interests, as well as his unorthodox approach towards experimentation, this article seeks to situate Lucas's exceptional coloured ivories within the contemporary debate around polychromy and chryselephantine effects in sculpture in the 1840s and 1850s. The thesis is that Lucas intended to confront the controversy of whether colour could be a relevant tactic for contemporary sculpture and therefore experimented with the effect of polychromy in the ancient Greek style on his ivories.

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de Chair, Désirée

de Chair, Désirée