Monday, April 11, 2016

THREE CENTURIES OF GREEK ART From Alexander to Cleopatra at the Met: Preview by Polly Guerin

The Acropolis of Pergamon by Friedrich (von) Therich 
Once upon a time, in the long, long ago Pergamon and the Hellenistic kingdoms of the ancient world were sophisticated areas of superior intelligence and artistic mastery. One may ask, "How did these cathedrals of culture emerge in this area of the world?" 
        Foremost, it was the conquests of Alexander the Great who transformed the ancient world, making trade and cultural exchange possible across great distances.  Alexander's retinue of court artists and extensive artistic patronage provided a model for his successors, the Hellenistic Kings, who came to rule over much of his empire.  It also took the patronage of the Hellenistic kings which led to the development of new institutions---libraries and museums, in particular---that have become pillars of modern civilization.  Then, too the origins, the concept of art history and the practice of connoisseurship also began at this time. 
      The exhibition PERGAMON and the HELLENISTIC KINGDOMS OF THE ANCIENT WORLD is on view from April 18-July 17, 2016
    Pergamon's sanctuary of Athena, goddess of wisdom, is represented by the 12-foot Hellenistic marble statue of Athena Parthenos, newly restored for this exhibition. Poetry also gets its due recognition with the importance of the epic poet Homer in Hellenistic times. It is highlighted by means of the allegorical sculptural relief known as the "Apotheosis of Homer," which was made to celebrate the victor of a poetry competition.  
Marble Bust: A Royal Head
WHO WERE THESE ROYALS? At the height of their powers in the third and second centuries B.C. the Attalid rulers of Pergamon controlled large territory of Asia Minor. Opulent luxury items in various media were produced by artisans for royalty and other elites Images of the Attalid royal family give face to the people who hosted elegant banquets and sophisticated entertainment in royal palaces.

    CAMEOS: It is interesting to note that the practice of cameo engraving was invented in the Hellenistic period. This artform-is represented by one of the largest and most spectacular examples known: the "Vienna Cameo," which depicts the king and queen from the Ptolemaic Egypt richly attired and imbued with divine symbolism. The mastery achieved by Hellenistic artisans in the employ of royalty includes ancient glass, engraved gems, and jewelry from all parts of the Hellenistic world. A small selection of actual furnishings evokes the lavish decor of the palaces themselves including mosaic floors, decorative sculpture, furniture of wood, marble and bronze; and painted stucco walls feature figural scenes.
Decorative Wall Sculpture
THE ROMAN EMPIRE: The complex history of the formation of the Roman Empire is presented through portraits of historical figures, including Mithradates Eupator
, Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Cleopatra. Although the power of the Hellenistic kingdoms came to an end in the late first century B.C. with the defeat of Cleopatra and Mark Antony at the Battle of Actium, the innovations of Hellenistic artists fostered by their royal patrons would influence Roman Imperial art for centuries. The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated catalogue suitable for scholars and the general public. For updates on programs and events visit:
Ta Ta Darlings!!! The awesome creativity and the mastery of the artisans in the ancient world gives pause to examine the artifacts that have survived for our education and pleasure Fan mail always welcome at Visit Polly's Blogs at and click on the direct link in the left-hand column to a Blog that resonates with your interest.

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