‘Color the Temple’ Light Display Reveals the Temple of Dendur’s Forgotten Look

New world technology revives old world glory.

Experimental lighting display Color the Temple at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Gustavo Camps
Experimental lighting display Color the Temple at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Photo: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Gustavo Camps
Experimental lighting display <em>Color the Temple</em> at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. <br>Photo: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Gustavo Camps

Experimental lighting display Color the Temple at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Photo: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Gustavo Camps.

As advancements in forensic technology reveal, antiquity’s surviving artifacts weren’t always without pigment. In a new installation titled “Color the Temple” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a well-known Egyptian relief is reliving its multi-colored glory thanks to a special light display.

The 2,000-year-old Temple of Dendur, acquired by the museum in 1967, is the subject of the Met MediaLab’s latest experiment. Every Friday and Saturday at dusk, a projector illuminates carvings on a portion of the structure’s south side with polychromatic light, activating select spaces with what is believed to be the relief’s original colors.

Experimental lighting display Color the Temple at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Photo: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Gustavo Camps

Experimental lighting display Color the Temple at The Temple of Dendur in The Sackler Wing at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Photo: Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art/Gustavo Camps

Museumgoers have been flocking to the digitally-restored scene, which depicts Roman emperor Augustus—clad in Pharaoh’s garb—presenting an offering to Egyptian deities Hathor and Horus.

“It was a collaboration,” Met MediaLab manager Marco Castro Cosio told artnet News in a phone interview. “Matt Felsen and Maria Paula Saba were lab interns who worked on the technology, and Erin Peters, who was a fellow at the time, did research on the colors.”

The Met MediaLab, which has been in operation for over three years, focuses on technology’s role in enhancing museum experiences. Last week, they lit up the museum’s ceilings with a lively projection of fireworks to celebrate the Lunar New Year. Castro Cosio said that the lab’s next project is an interactive exhibition titled “Robot-Assisted Drawing,” which explores the similarities and differences between humans and machines.

“Color the Temple” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art runs every Friday and Saturday evening through March 19.


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