Definition of polychrome in US English:



  • Painted, printed, or decorated in several colors.

    • ‘Ukiyo-e prints began to be produced in the late 17th century, but in 1764 Harunobu produced the first polychrome print.’
    • ‘Toshusai Sharaku was a rogue artist during the famous ukiyo-e period of polychrome wood-block printmaking in Japan's 17th to 19th centuries.’
    • ‘One of these, named after Olerys himself, consists of soft yellow-ocher swags and garlands surrounding polychrome medallions depicting mythological scenes.’
    • ‘Some were beautifully illustrated in color; no doubt providing the source of some of the polychrome flower painting that sometimes complemented black and white penwork in the late 1820s and 1830s.’
    • ‘Fabrics varied, and included calendared or glazed fabrics of wool, plain or floral printed calicos and muslins, and glazed chintz monochrome or polychrome prints.’


  • 1Varied coloring.

    • ‘Now though, in its restored polychrome of ochres, greens and blues, it harmonises perfectly with the building's essentially Italianate feel.’
    • ‘Other of the smaller works are painted in polychrome.’
    • ‘The Nyoirin Kannon is described as decorated by saishiki, or polychrome, by the Kanshinji Register, which also notes the lecture hall guardian statue, Bishamontenno, as having saishiki decoration.’
    • ‘It could not have been lustred, and the bright polychrome is entirely out of key with the blue and gold of the other tiles.’
    1. 1.1 A work of art in several colors, especially a statue.
      • ‘The Virgin is wearing a long flowing gown and traces of the original polychrome show that this was once red in colour.’
      • ‘The discovery made international headlines, and specialists arrived from Poland to examine the find - polychromes depicting colorful, fanciful figures, some with faces bearing a striking resemblance to Felix Landau and his mistress.’
      • ‘All his polychromes were thought to have been lost or defaced, until some of them were accidentally found just two years ago, hidden under whitewash and plaster, by a German film team making a documentary on the writer.’
      • ‘This piece also reflects the fact that colors and surfaces change over time, so that monochromes frequently evolve into polychromes, or lose their original texture, hue or intensity.’


[with object]usually as adjective polychromed
  • Execute or decorate (a work of art) in several colors.

    • ‘The pediment is painted jarrah fixed on a steel frame, and the bird itself is cast aluminium which has been painted to resemble polychromed hardwood.’
    • ‘The tomb consists of a prominent polychromed alabaster effigy of the duke lying in state on a slab of heavy black marble surrounded by heraldic symbols.’
    • ‘Sures must have had tongue in cheek when she contrived Ghirlandina, a cast-paper relief of an old, crooked, leaning tower, wonderfully abraded and polychromed.’
    • ‘In 1911 he met Braque, and between 1914 and 1915 he produced the Constructions series, polychromed wood and plaster sculptures with an emphatic frontality, which investigated juxtapositions of volume.’
    • ‘Similarly, it is typical for bodhisattva statues and those of deva or lesser deities to be polychromed.’


Early 19th century: from French, from Greek polukhrōmos, from polu- ‘many’ + khrōma ‘color’.