Art has many branches and techniques, among them we can find polychrome . This artistic technique is not new, in fact it is thousands of years old. Basically, it is the art of painting or decorating using different types of colors: wooden statues, stone, clay, sculptures or decorative ornaments.


What is polychromy?

Polychrome is a technique used with the aim of giving color to images or to a certain surface that you want to decorate through the combination of colors on a surface.


Characteristics of polychromy

Among its main characteristics are the following:

  • It can be elaborated in pictorial works and in sculptural or architectural works .
  • It can be done by making a combination of colors in the same structure or sculpture.
  • It gives a bigger and better personality to the work that is being painted.
  • It gives the possibility of simulating different types of finishes on materials such as wood.
  • It uses a series of colors that are dissolved in tempera , in oil or in wax .
  • After finishing the process of polychroming a material, it must be protected using varnish .
  • There is a compact policromía which is covering the piece completely and policromía of veiling that, thanks to its transparency, to observe the original veins that wood.
  • Simulates a metal finish on wood.


The origin of polychromy has its roots in ancient times , when the Assyrians and Chaldeans made paintings that gave shine to their statues and the walls of the buildings they built. The Egyptians also used the technique to give their temples and palaces more meaning.

History of polychrome

Archaeological discoveries have shown over time that polychromy has been used since the 19th century . The Hellenes used to use a type of red stucco to put it on the floor of the temples, a carmine tone for the capitals and the cornices they painted using blue, brown, yellow and green tones. The Roman Empire used marble with different shades and the Byzantines, who had inherited Hellenic art, continued their tradition of using colors.

During the romantic period and in the Gothic style , polychromy was widely used, the use of more vivid colors became more important mainly in the chapels and statues where red and blue backgrounds were used. By the time of the Renaissance , colored marbles and frescoes began to stand out, always using a great variety of colors.

In the 20th century there were several important periods for the technique, mainly in the field of architecture. The Art Nouveau of Europe was in charge of beginning to make the technique known internationally, making it develop more every day. Brick, stone, stucco and metal facades began to be designed with more colors and patterns. It is the boom of the industry and modern painting helped fuel the use of various colors.

Explanation of the technique

Polychrome is a fairly old technique that requires technical knowledge to be able to perform it. Before starting with the design, the wood must be prepared with a special type of plaster in order to repair all the possible imperfections that are on the surface. Subsequently, a layer of red earth must be applied, known as the “ harmonic bowl ”, which covers the piece creating at the same time a flexible layer that will make it possible to polish the gold when the process is finished.

When this step has been completed, the gold leaves are applied very carefully and one by one, using a polonaise , which is a small brush made with natural hair bristles that allows the placement of the sheets without causing any damage. type of damage. When the work is finished gilding, then it must be polished to give it more shine, if a more matte finish is desired then this step should be omitted.

The tempera paint is then placed and, when the paint layer has hardened, then the person in charge of the work, the polychromator , scribes all the designs that have been placed using a wooden point.


The polychrome can be made with various types of materials such as wood , resin and marble . The choice of these materials will depend on the environmental conditions to which it will be subjected. The colors used can be tempered, in oil or in wax, which after being applied, must be protected with varnish.

How it differs from monochrome

The main difference between these two techniques is that monochrome is a painting or an engraving in which only one color is used , but which can also combine shades of it. The polychromatic meanwhile, is a painting technique using two or more colors including degradations and different degrees of saturation.

Importance of polychrome

Polychromy is an important technique because thanks to it you can give colored to works of art, can then give personality to reflect movements and achieving work life. Each brushstroke and each color is responsible for reflecting life, with the aim of being able to express passions and feelings . Thanks to this technique you can also make basically any type of finish by imitating other materials.


Some examples of polychrome works are the following:

  • The seated scribe of the Louvre
  • Cleopatra bust

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