Help support TMP

"Painting Classical Statues to Look Like Statues" Topic

12 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.

Back to the Fantasy Painting Guides Message Board

Back to the Ancients Painting Guides Message Board

Back to the Painting Message Board

2,198 hits since 3 Jun 2011
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

jbenton Inactive Member03 Jun 2011 1:48 p.m. PST

I've recently taken the plunge back into the world of miniatures gaming, and a news post here on TMP, combined with some orders this morning sees me doing so with skirmish gaming in mythic Greece.

I'd like to paint up a few figures to use as statues and scenery, and am looking for suggestions on how to paint them in the vibrant schemes that were used, but still have them be distinguishable from figures meant for play.

Should I simply base them differently? Minimize the use of (or more likely attempted use, as it's been a while since I've painted a mini), of shading/highlighting etc. so that they look more flat?

PygmaelionAgain Inactive Member03 Jun 2011 2:13 p.m. PST

Stick to a very limited color selection.

If you go from black to black/tan to tan to tan/white using drybrushing all the way, you've got yourself a sandstone statue. Slap that baby on a plinth, and you're in business. Go ahead and make them a little chalky, and keep it matte… no ink or dipping.

Same for granite substituting a little blue for tan.

If there's ever any doubt what is a statue and what is a character, glue a pigeon to the head of the statue. That'll sort it out!

Edit after re-reading:
If you want the colors that archaeologists are guessing at… mix the color you want with white to keep that chalky look. As long as all your terrain has a different enough style and finish from your painted figs, they'll stand out as "not in play"

Personal logo Pictors Studio Sponsoring Member of TMP03 Jun 2011 2:16 p.m. PST

"If you go from black to black/tan to tan to tan/white using drybrushing all the way, you've got yourself a sandstone statue. Slap that baby on a plinth, and you're in business.

Same for granite substituting a little blue for tan."

That doesn't really work very well when the statues were painted.

What I would do is use a more orange colour for the skin than you would normally use, maybe make everything a little bit brighter with a little less highlighting. We don't really know exactly what they would have looked like but they certainly didn't have all the pigments we do now. That isn't to say that they weren't good at doing it but if you want them to look different from the regular miniatures that is what I would do.

That or use bigger figures and not correct for scale. So use 40mm figs with 28mm gaming figs and use 15mm painting style for the 40s to look like painted statues.

jbenton Inactive Member03 Jun 2011 4:52 p.m. PST

I appreciate the suggestions, and will likely be giving them a try.

Battle Works Studios Inactive Member03 Jun 2011 5:47 p.m. PST

I wonder (and am too lazy to research it myself) if there are there any credible theories as to why the custom of painting statues ended? It was kind of a precursor of miniatures painting in a way (1:1 scale or greater? did they suffer from scale creep too?) but why was it abandoned?

Insert joke about tournament organizers relaxing painting requirements. :)

jbenton Inactive Member03 Jun 2011 5:55 p.m. PST

One of the reasons is that when people started returning to the ancient statues during the Renaissance and the Neo-Classical revivals, most of those classic statues had long since lost most or all of their paint. The general consensus, at least that I'm aware of, is that these later artists presumed that the artists of antiquity did not paint their statues, and thus the ideal statue should be pristine marble.

Admittedly the bulk of my art historical studies were focused on dada and early modern art, so it's entirely possible that there's a great deal of literature on the subject of which I am unaware.

Personal logo Dr Mathias Supporting Member of TMP Fezian04 Jun 2011 7:25 a.m. PST

I'd go with a pedestal of some sort that is differentiated from regular basing, along with the simplified color scheme. For some reason most of the reconstructions I've seen tend to be dominated by primary colors.

I'm not sure if the ancients used pedestals, but for hundreds of years it was expected- so much so that when Rodin brought sculptures down to ground level in the late 1800's it caused some ruckus.

jbenton Inactive Member04 Jun 2011 9:46 a.m. PST

If Pliny's comments on the Knidian Aphrodite being within reach of her… "suitors" aren't entirely apocryphal, I'm inclined to think that most ancient sculpture was not isolated on pedestals.

A quick trip through my massive copy of Jansen's 8th edition suggests that while like oversized minis many sculptures had integral bases, the closest they got to pedestals were things like Caryatids. Admittedly these pieces aren't in situ, but the scattered reconstruction drawings don't start to suggest pedestals until we get to Rome; though I'd need to check more specialized sources before I was willing to say, "Nope, Greeks never put statues on pedestals."

Since I'm doing my interpretation of mythical Greece it isn't as if I'm averse to basing them in an ahistorical fashion if it makes the job easier. Though maybe I can just keep them on regular-size bases, and either use differently shaped bases, or bases painted with a solid color (maybe with a bit of smooth goop on them to make them look more like stone), to indicate these are not people. That would let me still use them on a pedestal as I could just set them atop something else for a layered effect, or make pedestals with spots cut out for the base to rest in.

brevior est vita Inactive Member06 Jun 2011 11:26 a.m. PST

Many Greek and Roman votive statues stood on inscribed plinths or pedestals. Here are a few examples:

This is a very nice article on votive statues (and statue bases) on the Athenian acropolis:
PDF link

Here is an article on the coloration of ancient statues:

Many Hindu statues are painted in similarly bright colors to this day:


jbenton Inactive Member06 Jun 2011 3:41 p.m. PST


Thanks for the links. I wasn't familiar with the Greek votive statues. I'll have to keep them in mind.

Ban Chao Inactive Member17 Jul 2011 2:45 p.m. PST

actually most statues and busts were painted to look 'real'

bilsonius19 Jul 2011 6:39 p.m. PST

Scroll down to page 7 here for Angus McB's comment on painted statues:


(The other illustrations are great too, if you don't already know them…)

Sorry - only verified members can post on the forums.