Tuesday, 23 February 2010

M/M Important Antiquities Lent by Republic of Italy on View at Metropolitan Museum

Image courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The Moregine Silver Treasury Roman, Late Republican or Augustan, second half of the first century B.C. From Moregine, near Pompeii Lent by the Republic of Italy, 2010 (L.2010.1-20)

A rare, recently excavated ancient Roman dining set consisting of 20 silver objects—one of only three such sets from the region of Pompeii known to exist in the world—and an important ancient Greek kylix (or drinking cup) have been installed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Galleries for Greek and Roman Art as part of an ongoing exchange of antiquities between the Republic of Italy and the Museum.

Thomas P. Campbell, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, commented: "It gives me great pleasure to announce the most recent loan of antiquities from the Republic of Italy to the Met, and to recognize the continued collaboration between Italy and the Museum that makes this display possible. The presentation of these splendid works in New York, where they will be viewed by millions of visitors over the next four years, will deepen the public's knowledge and appreciation of ancient art, and will contribute immeasurably to their understanding of its significance."

The collaborative agreement, established in 2006, involved the transfer of title and the return of several works of art including the Euphronios krater (ca. 515 B.C.). It also provided for long-term loans of comparably great works of ancient art from the Republic of Italy. The agreement furthermore provided for the exhibition of 16 Hellenistic silver pieces from the third century B.C. on a rotating basis every four years. In 2006 and 2008, four magnificent loans came to the Met, and the present loans coincide with the four-year return of the Hellenistic silver to Sicily.

The terracotta kylix lent by the Republic of Italy is one of the most famous surviving works from the region of Sparta that was exported to Italy in antiquity. Dated between about 575 and 560 B.C., the Laconian kylix shows a spirited mythological scene: two wind gods, the Boreads, rush to punish the predatory harpies. It is on view on the east side of The Robert and Renée Belfer Court.

The silver objects—the Moregine Treasure—represent one of the few Roman silver dining sets to survive from the first century A.D. They include vessels for holding, serving, and receiving food as well as receptacles for mixing, pouring, and drinking liquids. Buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79, and excavated in 2000 at Moregine on the outskirts of Pompeii, the silver weighs nearly nine pounds. It had been carefully placed in a wicker basket and hidden in the basement of an unfinished public bath house; presumably, its owner had hoped to return for it, but died in the eruption. The two canthari (drinking cups) are of particular interest and were likely prized antiques at the time they were buried, having been made over a century earlier at the very end of the Hellenistic era, likely in Alexandria, Egypt. They seem to commemorate what is sometimes known as the Treaty of Brundisium between Mark Anthony and Octavian in 40 B.C., just four years after the assassination of Caesar. This historic treaty gave Mark Anthony command of the eastern Roman provinces, while Octavian was given control over Italy and the West.

The Moregine Treasure is on view in the Museum's Hellenistic Treasury, along with other luxury goods of the Hellenistic and early Roman Imperial periods. The display at the Metropolitan Museum is the first time the Moregine Treasure has been exhibited outside Italy. It was exhibited during the summer of 2006 at the National Archaeological Museum in Naples, where it formed part of the exhibition Argenti a Pompei (Silver at Pompeii). The Metropolitan Museum's Hellenistic Treasury is an intimate showplace for outstanding examples of luxury goods, primarily made of precious metals, gemstones, and glass, as well as Hellenistic gold and silver coins. Located east of the Sardis gallery, a main thoroughfare within the Museum, it displays some of the greatest treasures of the Greek and Roman art collection, including a pair of spectacular gold serpentine armbands (Greek, Hellenistic, ca. 200 B.C.) and a bronze statuette of a veiled and masked dancer (Greek, third-second century B.C.). The gallery thus features the luxury arts of the Hellenistic koine, a result of Alexander the Great's conquest of the Persian Empire in 331 B.C. The Moregine Silver Treasure demonstrates vividly how Rome participated in the cultural and artistic exchanges that encompassed not only the whole of the Mediterranean world but also lands stretching eastward as far as Afghanistan and India.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art http://www.metmuseum.org