It's All Greek To Me
I hope you don’t mind a quick detour back into the world of art and antiquities. You don’t? Great, thanks, then here we go.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has an extensive collection of Greek and Roman art in its permanent collection. But there are other museums that house deep antiquity assets, and one of them is the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. When the Pergamon Museum announced that it would be temporarily closing for refurbishment of its space, the Met took this as an opportunity to bring a treasure trove of Hellenistic art to North America. The result was “Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World.” I went to see it recently in New York, and it was worth the trouble of dealing with the Big Apple.
The Wall Street Journal reported on the exhibition, and called it the “one of the most ambitious exhibitions of Greek art in the [Met’s] history.” While the exhibition had the Pergamon treasures at is core, the Met also solicited works from about 50 other museums and thus ended up with a treasure trove of Greek antiquities. The result was a blockbuster show.
According to the Journal, the Hellenistic period generally dates from the death of Alexander the Great (323 BC) to the suicide of Cleopatra in 30 BC. For those not in the know, Pergamon was a wealthy ancient city that now sits inside the border of Turkey. It was “discovered” by European archeologists, and most of its most treasured objects were taken, with permission by the then-local government, to Berlin. When we were in Turkey, we didn’t go to Pergamon because most of its treasures are gone, but we did go to Ephesus which was bad-ass. I would highly recommend Turkey assuming that there are no terrorist attacks or coups going on. Oops, sorry about that.
Anyway, the Met did a great job of complementing the Pergamon Museum’s core pieces with those of the same period from the other museums. But the most stunning pieces in the exhibition come from Pergamon. According to Carlos Picon, the Met’s curator in charge of the Greek and Roman collection, “this is the top 1% of what has survived [from the Hellenistic period] in terms of quality.” And it was all checked out in detail by yours truly.
Highlights include a very large statue of Athena. It weighs over 3 tons and was moved into the Met in 3 pieces. Trust me, it’s dramatic. Here’s a picture:
Other items that were incredible were some Greek bronze statues, one of a sleeping Eros, and one of a Greek man that is simply in incredible shape (it still has the glass eyes, that are haunting). They are pictured below. Note that there are only about 200 quality ancient Greek bronzes left in the modern world even though they were much more ubiquitous in ancient Greece than marble statues. Check these babies out:
Other wonderful objects were stunning ancient glassware of exquisite quality, particularly given their age. Here is a photo of some – blow it up and check them out in detail remembering that they are 2000 years old:
Here’s an amazing amulet:
And a golden crown that was mind-blowing in its beauty, condition and craftsmanship:
Just to keep things real, here is a bust of the Greek hero Herakles (top) and one of the most influential humans ever to stride the Earth, Julius Caesar, who lived at the end of the Hellenistic period:
Next, some marble statutary of dying and wounded Gauls that, again, are simply in amazing shape:
And finally, because this is a music blog, a picture of a bronze Greek shield, and more importantly, a bronze and bone Greek trumpet – the only one of its kind remaining in the world that is in complete and original condition. And a relief from a large urn showing a Grecian jamming on a wind instrument:
In case you didn’t realize it, I kind of dig this ancient stuff, and am always interested in checking it out. This was a show not to be missed, and I hope that others took advantage of its proximity to Philly to give it a look. I’m going to get back to the music soon enough, but thought this was worth a detour.
Speaking of music, I don’t have any shows on the calendar for about 6 weeks or so. I know, what the heck? But I already have tickets in hand to see Dick Dale, Springsteen, Titus Andronicus, Squeeze, the English Beat, the Buzzcocks, and Low Cut Connie in the Fall. That will give me plenty to write about, and you a chance to join me for some or all of this bodacious lineup. Hope more is in the works, and that I see you there.
Thanks for reading, and have a great day.
Leave a Reply.
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.