The Met Exhibit from Pergamon: Hellenistic Ecstatically Excellent
If you have not had a chance to catch a glimpse of the treasures of the Hellenistic Age on view at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, you only have a week left. This incredible collection brings together artifacts, statues, and objects from Pergamon, the most intact city from the Hellenistic Period. This period is marked roughly from the time after the death of Alexander the Great that resulted in an amalgamation of cultures and resources from the vast empire Alexander had united under the ideals of Hellas until the takeover of ancient Greece by the Roman Empire.
This period of time is remarkable in its aesthetics as it represented the human body with a dramatic tenseness and dynamism so that historians termed the style Hellenistic Baroque. Statues took on contortions of form, a fluidity of motion, and broke down the conventions of Classical forms to reveal the individual personality of the human subject they try to depict. Hellenistic art became fascinated as much with busts of powerful political and military elite as with common subjects (for example, a boy taking a thorn out of his foot, an old woman wrapped in a shawl in a marketplace, a dwarf laughing). Hellenism took the humanism of the Classical Period in art to a new level to reveal the individualized personality of the subject. The arts of the Hellenistic Age are literally springing out of the hard limestone and marble, dancing, laughing, crying, dying.
Knowledge of other culture’s techniques in jewelry-making and the accumulation of the wide reserves of gold from the entire empire, including high concentrations in the Middle East, made possible intricate designs and heavy ornateness of unparalleled quality. Don’t leave without taking in long gazes of the gilded armlets of mermaids bearing babies, headdresses dangling with tassles of gold twisted into the knot of Hercules and precious stone, hair pieces to hold a lady’s bun.
The Pergamon Exhibit also includes a reconstructed replica of the original Temple of Athena in Pergamon and an imposing Pallas Athene, the tallest statue of the entire show. Another room recounts the finding of the shipwreck of the merchant ship off the island of Antikythera that resulted in many objects of art that give insight into the period. This included the first attempt to create a ‘computer’ by the Greeks named the Antikythera mechanism.
The splendor of the Hellenistic Age sprawls on the 2nd floor of the Metropolitan packing the wing with objects from as far away as Turkey, Rome, Greece, and Berlin. (To actually physically experience the splendor of the altar sanctuary of the Temple at Pergamon you must visit Berlin where it was literally lifted from its mound in its entirety in Turkey and transported to the German museum).
Here is just a sampling of the treasures you will experience up close: