Leon Levy and Shelby White Court Provides Dramatic Centerpiece for Display of the Metropolitan's World-Renowned Classical Art Collection
Opens Friday, April 20, 2007
A spectacular "museum-within-the-museum" for the display of its extraordinary collection of Hellenistic, Etruscan, South Italian, and Roman art – much of it unseen in New York for generations – will open at The Metropolitan Museum of Art this April in its New Greek and Roman Galleries. After more than five years of construction, the long-awaited opening concludes a 15-year project for the complete redesign and reinstallation of the Museum's superb collection of classical art. Returning to public view in the new space are thousands of long-stored works from the Metropolitan's collection, which is considered one of the finest in the world. The centerpiece of the New Greek and Roman Galleries is the majestic Leon Levy and Shelby White Court – a monumental, peristyle court for the display of Hellenistic and Roman art, with a soaring two-story atrium.
"The New Greek and Roman Galleries are a milestone in an unprecedented building campaign – more than a dozen years in the making – to construct anew within the framework of our historic building, to make use of new methodologies while honoring the old, and to encourage our visitors to look at ancient art in a new way," commented Philippe de Montebello, Director of the Metropolitan Museum. "Some 5,300 works previously in storage, many of them collected in the earliest years after the Museum's founding in 1870, will now be installed on two levels of commodious new galleries by our brilliant team of curators under the leadership of Carlos Picón, Curator in Charge of the Department of Greek and Roman Art, and with the outstanding organizational abilities of Collections Coordinator Bill Gagen. As we celebrate this landmark event, we remember with gratitude the generosity of our many friends, past and present, who have made this possible – among them Shelby White and her late husband Leon Levy, and our dear friends the late Bill Blass and the late Frank A. Cosgrove, Jr., whose generous gifts have made possible this glorious new exhibition space for Greek and Roman art."
Shelby White commented: "My late husband, Leon Levy, believed that by studying past civilizations we would better understand ourselves. What better setting to do that than these magnificent new galleries. I am thrilled."
"The fashion designer Bill Blass was a collector of truly discerning taste," noted Carlos Picón, "with a passionate interest in the 'classics' of many time periods – including antiquities. Although he had been a loyal and active member of our departmental friends group for many years, the bequest of half of his estate to the Department of Greek and Roman Art was immensely gratifying and a complete surprise."
He continued: "Similarly, Frank Cosgrove – who had an interest in Greek and Roman art – also made a very significant bequest to the Metropolitan, which was made known to the Museum following his death in 1992. We feel certain that he would have been delighted to see these new galleries. It is with great pleasure that the Museum places the names of these two men in the galleries that contain superb examples of art that they both esteemed."
The New Greek and Roman Galleries, located in The Lamont Wing at the southern end of the building, house art created between about 900 B.C. and the early fourth century A.D., tracing the parallel stories of the evolution of Greek art in the Hellenistic period and the arts of southern Italy and Etruria, culminating in the rich and varied world of the Roman Empire. On the first floor, contiguous to the central Leon Levy and Shelby White Court on three sides, are galleries for Hellenistic and Roman art. The installation continues on the wholly redesigned mezzanine level, where galleries for Etruscan art and the Greek and Roman study collection overlook the court from two sides. Together, the astonishing assembly of works on display – some never before seen by the public – brings to life the visual and conceptual roots of Western civilization.
LEON LEVY AND SHELBY WHITE COURT
The focal point of the new galleries is the spectacular Leon Levy and Shelby White Court for Hellenistic and Roman art, which occupies an area created by the renowned architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White between 1912 and 1926. The atrium, which evoked the ambulatory garden of a large private Roman villa, has been transformed through the addition of another story and a dazzling colored marble floor into a much grander space befitting its location as the culmination of the Museum's display for its outstanding Greek and Roman collections. The McKim, Mead and White atrium served to display Roman art for a mere two decades before being converted into the Museum's restaurant and cafeteria. Although the new design introduces several features, it remains faithful to the architects' original concept: a classically inspired architectural style and a glass roof that allows the objects below to be viewed in natural daylight. On view in the center of the court are nearly 20 Roman sculptures created between the first century B.C. and the third century A.D., that demonstrate a range of materials, styles, and subject matter.
The Old Market Woman (Roman, Julio-Claudian, A.D. 14-68) is a realistic study in marble of an elderly woman in an elegant dress, thong sandals, and a crown of Dionysiac ivy leaves. She is dressed for a festival, and the chickens and basket of fruit she carries are probably offerings for Dionysus, god of wine.
The life-size bronze Portrait Statue of an Aristocratic Boy (Roman, Augustan, 27 B.C.-A.D. 14), depicts a youth on the threshold of adulthood. Treasured more highly than marble, bronze statues were common in the Hellenistic and Roman periods but were routinely melted down in later periods. Thus, life-sized Roman bronzes are rare in modern collections.
Roman admiration for Greek culture is evident in the marble statue of Dionysus, god of wine and divine intoxication (Roman, Augustan or Julio-Claudian, 27 B.C.-A.D. 68, adaptation of a Greek statue of the fourth century B.C.). He wears a panther skin over his short chiton and high sandals, with animal heads on the overhanging skin flaps. He stands beside an archaistic female image, whose pose and dress imitate those of Greek statues carved in the sixth century B.C. This work is known as the Hope Dionysos, after the prominent collector Thomas Hope, who acquired it in 1796.
Two larger-than-life-size statues of Hercules face one another from either side of the court (both Roman, Flavian, A.D. 69-98). A lion skin is draped over the left arm of the young, beardless Hercules. The older, bearded Hercules wears the lion skin across his shoulders, with the lion's head and mane forming a hood on his head. Both works were part of the Giustiniani Collection in Rome, first published in 1631.
The purple stone called porphyry (from the Greek word for purple) was especially prized for monuments and building projects in Imperial Rome. A decorative support for a basin (Roman, Mid-Imperial, second century A.D.) owes its appeal as much to the vibrant color of the stone as to the bold, clear carving. The stone was imported from quarries in the eastern deserts of Upper Egypt. The support formed part of the collection of William Waldorf Astor, later Baron Astor of Hever, who assembled his collection of antiquities between 1890 and 1905.
The Met's representative collection of Roman portrait busts depicting emperors, other members of the imperial family, and private individuals is displayed in chronological order along the perimeter of the court. Included are two statues of members of the Julio-Claudian family, shown in heroic semi-nudity, that are recent bequests of Bill Blass. Returning to view is an impressive grouping of some two dozen Roman portrait heads, including a number of Roman emperors. The dissemination of imperial portraits in sculpture, gems, and coins was the chief means of political propaganda in the Roman empire. Although the marble portrait head of the Emperor Augustus (Roman, Julio-Claudian, ca. A.D. 14-37) incorporates individualized features, the overall effect is one of elevated dignity that recalls Greek statues of the fifth century B.C. The fine marble bust of Caligula (Roman, Julio-Claudian, A.D. 37-41) adheres to the basic imperial image established by Augustus, to which the artist has added a proud turn of the head that conveys something of Caligula's personality. His reign of extravagance and oppression ended in his assassination in A.D. 41. The marble portrait of Antoninus Pius (Roman, Antonine, A.D. 138-161) shows the emperor with a thick, curly beard and a frame of hair around his face – similar to portraits of Hadrian, his predecessor and adoptive father.
Additionally, there are thematic displays of Hellenistic art, Hellenistic funerary art, Roman funerary art, sarcophagi, and Roman architecture. Of particular interest are architectural fragments from the emperor Domitian's palace on the Palatine in Rome (Roman, ca. A.D. 90-92) – being shown for the first time in decades.
Noteworthy among the sarcophagi is the Marble Garland Sarcophagus (Roman, Severan, ca. A.D. 200-225). Found at Tarsus, in southern Turkey, in 1863, it entered the Metropolitan in 1870 as the first object offered to and accepted by the Museum. Adorned along the front and sides with garlands of oak leaves, Medusa heads, Cupids, and Victories, the lid and back of the sarcophagus are unfinished.
A masterpiece is the Badminton Sarcophagus (Roman, Late Imperial, A.D. 260-70). Carved in high relief from a single block of marble, it shows the god Dionysus seated on a panther and surrounded by an entourage of lusty satyrs, maenads (his female devotees), the horned god Pan, and four youths who represent the Seasons, each bearing appropriate attributes. The play of light and shadow over the surface of this superlative work generates a feeling of vibrancy and energy. This work came to the Metropolitan Museum from the collection of the dukes of Beaufort and was formerly displayed in their country seat, Badminton Hall in Gloucestershire, England.
ADJACENT GALLERIES (FIRST FLOOR)
Separate first-floor galleries adjoining the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court have been designated for the presentation of South Italian art (fourth-first century B.C.); Hellenistic art and architecture, the Hellenistic treasury, and Hellenistic art and the Hellenistic tradition (third-first century B.C.); and the art of Augustan Rome (first century A.D.), Roman imperial art (second century A.D.), and the art of the later Roman empire (third century A.D.). Highlights of these galleries are two actual rooms from Roman villas – with their stunning wall paintings – that were buried nearly two thousand years ago by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79.
South Italian Art (fourth-first century B.C.)
Parts of Italy south of Rome were colonized by Greek emigrants from the mid-eighth century B.C. Connections with the mainland remained strong, intensifying the transplantation of Greek traditions, culture, and language. Indeed, this area of Italy was known since antiquity as "Magna Graecia" (or Greater Greece). The interaction with native Italic and Latin peoples significantly influenced the appearance and development of local arts. One of the principal features of South Italian culture is its interest in Greek drama, often reflected in works of art.
A red-figure calyx-krater (ca. 400-390 B.C., Greek, South Italian, Apulian, Late Classical, attributed to the Tarporley Painter) shows three comic actors performing a scene from a phlyax play, a kind of farce, developed in southern Italy. Since the plays themselves – boisterous parodies of Greek tragedies – have not survived, vase paintings such as this one are important references.
On view nearby, at the entrance to the gallery, is a terracotta column-krater (bowl for mixing wine and water) that depicts the painting of a marble statue (ca. 360-350 B.C., Greek, South Italian, Apulian, Late Classical, red-figure). Ancient authors and surviving sculptures indicate that Greek marble statues were tinted or painted using a process that is illustrated on this South Italian vase. As depicted, an artist applies an emulsion of pigment and wax to the surface of a statue of Herakles (Hercules). Afterward, a red-hot iron rod (a number of which are shown being heated by an assistant or slave) will be passed over the statue, causing molten paint to penetrate the surface of the stone. Unbeknownst to the artist, Herakles himself approaches with an expression of critical curiosity.
Leon Levy and Shelby White Gallery for Hellenistic Art and Architecture
The Hellenistic period spanned the three centuries between the death of Alexander the Great (323 B.C.) and the Battle of Actium (31 B.C.), where the victorious young general Octavian –
who later became the emperor Augustus – established himself as the sole ruler of the Roman empire. Hellenistic art did not break with the past, but the conquest of the East brought wider horizons. Artists looked for new subjects and discovered inspiration through observation of daily life.
Prominently displayed within this gallery is the newly conserved Sardis Column (Greek, Hellenistic, ca. 300 B.C.). The fluted marble column once stood some 58 feet high in its original setting: the Temple of Artemis at Sardis, the ancient capital of Lydia, in western Turkey. At the Metropolitan, where it is shown with only part of the shaft, it measures nearly 12 feet in height from its scale-patterned base to its finely crafted Ionic capital. Sardis was one of the cities of western Asia Minor in which Greek influence was continually interwoven with local traditions. Massive architectural fragments enrich the display and provide an impression of the sumptuous detail on what was one of the largest temples ever built in antiquity. These objects were excavated at Sardis early in the 20th century.
The features of a recently acquired monumental marble Head of a Ptolemaic Queen (Greek, Ptolemaic, ca. 270-250 B.C.) are highly idealized in a pure Greek style, but the face is stamped with enough individuality to justify calling it a portrait. The subject is a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, the Macedonian Greeks who ruled Egypt from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. until its annexation by Rome after the dramatic suicide of Cleopatra VII in 30 B.C. The noble and radiant head, which retains its original polish, ranks with the finest Ptolemaic royal portraits.
Visible through a window in the Sardis gallery, a pair of spectacular gold serpentine armbands (Greek, Hellenistic, ca. 200 B.C.) draws visitors into the Hellenistic Treasury, an intimate showplace for outstanding examples of luxury goods, primarily made of precious metals, gemstones, or glass. The armbands – imposing testimonials to the goldsmiths' art – represent two tritons (attendants of the sea god), male and female, each holding a small winged Eros. The hoops behind the tritons' heads were used to attach the armbands to the sleeves of a garment, because their weight (over 6-1/2 ounces each) would have caused them to slip.
Another stunning work is a small statue of a veiled and masked dancer (Greek, third-second century B.C.). The effect of this remarkable bronze depends exclusively on the pose of the dancer and the treatment of the drapery. The woman's face is covered with a sheer veil, which can be discerned at its edge below her hairline and at the cutouts for the eyes. Her right foot is extended, showing a laced slipper. The dancer has been identified as one of the professional entertainers, a combination of mime and dancer, for which the cosmopolitan city of Alexandria was famous in antiquity. The composition and articulation of folds over the body of this figure are without equal.
Also on view in the Hellenistic Treasury are coins (featuring important loans from the American Numismatic Society) and gems, as well as refined small-scale objects having a private or religious use.
John Georgas Family Gallery for Hellenistic Art and the Hellenistic Tradition (third-first century B.C.)
Their admiration for Greek art led Roman patrons to commission works that looked to the Greek world, whether through new interpretations of old themes or through copies of Greek works made in previous centuries. The Metropolitan Museum's collection of Hellenistic art is particularly strong in bronze sculptures, many of which are displayed here.
Hellenistic artists introduced the accurate characterization of age. Thus, a statue of Eros sleeping (Greek or Roman, Hellenistic or Augustan, third century B.C.-early first century A.D.) – one of the few bronze statues that have survived from antiquity – shows the plump body and relaxed pose of a child, clearly based on firsthand observation. This concept of Eros, the god of love, brought down to earth and disarmed, is very different from that of the powerful, often cruel, and capricious being more commonly known in the past.
The Museum's collection of Roman wall paintings is considered to be the finest outside of Italy and features frescoes from two great villas – at Boscoreale and Boscotrecase – located near Pompeii; they were buried by the eruption of Vesuvius in A.D. 79.
From Boscoreale, the sumptuous villa of the wealthy Roman patron P. Fannius Synistor (Roman, Late Republican, ca. 50-40 B.C.), come several fresco panels from a reception hall. The largest is a grouping of three frescoes with figures that are generally agreed to be copies of a cycle of royal paintings created for one of the Macedonian courts of the Hellenistic period. They not only give an impression of the subtlety of modeling and the monumentality achieved by Greek painters in the late fourth and early third centuries B.C., but they also exemplify the kind of allegorical court art that was created to commemorate important occasions.
The three panels probably celebrate a dynastic marriage. In one, a seated woman, who is playing the kithara (a large stringed instrument), wears a diadem and sits on a throne-like chair, while a child leans over her shoulder. The wedded couple occupies another panel, with the ruler shown in heroic semi-nudity and the wife looking pensive, as brides were generally depicted in ancient art. The woman in the third panel may represent an oracle predicting the birth of a male heir and future king, because a nude man wearing the white band that served as a crown for Hellenistic rulers appears as a reflection in her shield.
Frescoes from the bedroom (cubiculum) at Boscoreale depict complex architectural vistas and fantasy gardens. Visual ambiguities tease the eyes. The walls themselves dissolve into elaborate displays of illusionistic architecture and realms of fantasy. The villa was buried – and its stunning wall paintings preserved nearly intact – by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. An indicator of the cataclysm's tremendous force is the skewed metal crosspieces of the room's metal window frame.
The reinstallation of this room was made possible by Sir David Gibbons, in honor of Lully Lorentzen, Lady Gibbons.
Painted just a few decades later, the frescoes from the imperial villa at Boscotrecase (Roman, Augustan, last decade of first century B.C.) favor surface ornamentation. In some panels, mythological scenes are set amidst the vegetation, rocks, sea, and sky characteristic of the nearby Bay of Naples.
In the Black Room, monochrome backgrounds provide a stark contrast to elaborate architectural and whimsical vegetal patterns. Painted by artists working for the imperial household – the villa was built by Agrippa, friend of the Emperor Augustus and husband of his daughter, Julia – the frescoes are executed according to the most sophisticated style and highest artistic standards of the time. The villa was partially excavated between 1903 and 1905 after its accidental discovery during work on a railway.
The reinstallation of this room was made possible by Diane Carol Brandt.
Together, the two sets of wall paintings show the settings of domestic life for wealthy Romans nearly 2,000 years ago. These masterpieces of classical art – unquestionably the finest works of their type outside Italy – are presented in the context of sculpture, bronzes, and other arts of the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods for the first time in generations.
Sylvia Josephs Berger and Joyce Berger Cowin Gallery for the Art of Augustan Rome (first century A.D.)
By the first century B.C., Rome was the largest, richest, and most powerful city in the Mediterranean world. During the reign of Augustus (27 B.C.- A.D. 14), the city of modest brick and local stone was transformed into a metropolis of glistening marble, a worthy capital for an imperial power. Craftsmen from the entire Mediterranean region established workshops that produced a range of objects – silverware, gems, and glass – of the highest quality and originality. The period was characterized by the impulse to innovate rather than re-create in architecture, sculpture, and painting.
The art of gem cutting reached its peak under the patronage of the emperor Augustus. Cameos in particular were much favored by Augustus and the imperial family. A stunning example is a sardonyx cameo – a masterpiece in miniature carving – in which he is depicted as a semi-divine being (Roman, Claudian, A.D. 41-54). The cameo, which measures a mere 1-1/2 inches in height, shows him wearing the laurel wreath of victory, an aegis (scaled cloak decorated with a Gorgon's head and the personification of the wind), a baldric (belt worn across the chest to hold a scabbard), and a spear.
The precedent for semi-divine imagery used in this way comes to Roman art from the Hellenistic kingdoms, where rulers – following the example of Alexander the Great – assumed the attributes of gods and heroes. The cameo was in the celebrated 17th-century collection of Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel.
A beautiful cast glass bowl (Roman, Augustan, late first century B.C.) features four roughly equal sections in translucent purple, yellow, blue, and colorless glass that are further ornamented by four hanging garlands of millefiori glass, one of which is fused to the upper surface of each quadrant. Very few vessels made of differently colored glass sections are known from antiquity, and this is the only example that combines the technique with fused-on decoration. A masterpiece of glassmaking, it was created at the time when cast-glass was being supplanted by glass made by the newly invented technique of glassblowing.
Displayed nearby is a glass jug signed by Ennion (Roman, Julio-Claudian, first half of first century A.D.), the most famous and gifted of the known makers of Roman mold-blown glass. Ennion came from the eastern Mediterranean coastal city of Sidon in modern Lebanon and his workshop is believed to have been located there. Ennion vessels have also been found in Greece, Spain, and Gaul, and at numerous sites in Italy, suggesting that his molds, as well as his finished glasses were traded throughout the Mediterranean. Ennion's products are distinguished by their fine detail and the precision of their relief decoration that imitates designs found especially on contemporary silver tableware. Scholars have suggested that he may originally have trained as a silversmith and adapted the skills of embossing and chasing metal to the making of glass molds.
Roman Imperial Art (second century A.D.)
In the second century A.D., Rome was at the height of its power and prosperity. A series of emperors – from Trajan to Marcus Aurelius – who were accomplished administrators and effective generals ensured a peaceful succession, and wars were restricted to distant parts of the Empire. In the city of Rome, throughout Italy, and in many of the provinces, people enjoyed a standard of living and a way of life that were unequaled both in antiquity and in more recent times. Much of the surplus wealth created at that time was channeled into public buildings and works of art, and it is largely the remains of these monuments that we can see and admire today at Roman archaeological sites and in museums.
This gallery focuses on the arts of Rome during the peaceful and prosperous second century A.D. While a series of 'good' emperors – the Antonines – and their armies fought hard campaigns along the empire's frontiers against barbarian invaders, the majority of the population enjoyed an unprecedented standard of living. Besides religion, people's concerns included entertainment – the infamous gladiatorial shows and the exciting chariot races – and comforts such as bathing and good-quality household furnishings.
A recently acquired marble cinerary urn, or container for the ashes of a cremated body (Roman, Julio-Claudian, first half of the first century A.D.), is a singular example of Roman funerary art. The back and side panels are covered with trophies, weapons, and armor – subject matter more usually found on imperial monuments – carved in exquisite detail. Both the imagery and the quality of the carving suggest that it was a special commission, possibly for a high- ranking imperial officer. The work is missing the front and the lid. After the urn's acquisition, a separate joining fragment was donated to the Museum, and this piece has now been restored to the urn, completing the right rear corner.
John A. and Carole O. Moran Gallery for the Art of the Later Roman Empire
(third century A.D.)
The third century saw marked changes in Roman society as various crises disturbed the peace and stability of the empire. In A.D. 212, the emperor Caracalla, elder son of Septimius Severus, enacted the Constitutio Antoniniana, which granted full citizenship to all free male inhabitants of the Roman Empire. But in reality there was a widening gap between the rich elite and the ordinary citizen, spanned only by successful soldiers who too often occupied the imperial throne for a few short years. In art, too, trends towards regionalism can be detected, while the works produced for the rich display a universality that epitomizes Romanization.
The Metropolitan Museum's collection of Roman sarcophagi figures prominently in this gallery and includes the recent acquisition of a fine strigillated example, a type that was very popular in
Rome and Italy, although the marble from which it was made comes from northwest Asia Minor (Turkey). The display concludes with two famous imperial portraits, the bronze statue of Trebonianus Gallus (Roman, Late Imperial, A.D. 251-53) and the monumental marble head of Constantine the Great (Roman, Late Imperial, ca. A.D. 325-70).
Additional galleries and a study collection are located on the mezzanine level.
LEON LEVY AND SHELBY WHITE GALLERY FOR ETRUSCAN ART
(ninth-second century B.C.) – MEZZANINE LEVEL
This dramatic gallery on the mezzanine, overlooking the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court to the north and Central Park to the south, is devoted to the art of the Etruscans, from their earliest creations to the time of Roman rule. The Etruscans were the dominant culture of pre-Roman Italy, and they had a profound influence on Roman art, religion, technology, and language before being subsumed into the Roman state by the early first century B.C. Etruria, the region occupied by the Etruscans and located between the Arno and Tiber rivers, was rich in metal, particularly copper and iron. The Etruscans were master metalsmiths, who exported their finished products throughout the Mediterranean area. In trade, they received exotic materials such as ivory, amber, and semi-precious stones, all of which fostered the development of Etruscan gem engraving and other arts. In the absence of fine marble, the Etruscans were also well-known for their terracotta freestanding sculpture and architectural reliefs.
The centerpiece of the Leon Levy and Shelby White Gallery for Etruscan art is one of the great works in the Museum's collection, the newly restored, world-famous Etruscan chariot (second quarter of the sixth century B.C.). One of very few complete chariots to survive from antiquity, this superb work is returning to public view for the first time since the early 1990s, after extensive study and conservation. Made of bronze (mounted on a wooden substructure) and inlaid with precious elephant and hippopotamus ivory, the chariot is richly decorated with scenes from the life of the Greek hero Achilles. Although the subject matter is Greek, the artistic style is entirely Etruscan. The chariot would have accommodated the driver and a distinguished passenger. Because chariots were no longer used in warfare at the time this example was made, it was probably used solely for ceremonial purposes before being buried in a tomb. A rich array of smaller bronze and terracotta objects found in the same tomb is displayed nearby, as is the Bolsena tomb-group, which includes works that were part of the burial of a woman.
The Homeric subject matter of the bronze chariot poses the question of how the story of Achilles became known in Etruria. Bards may have recited the tale. Written documents may have existed as well. Also on view is a small Etruscan vase in the shape of a cockerel (ca. 630-620 B.C.). The head acts as a stopper and was secured to the bird's body by a cord. Inscribed with the 26 letters of the Etruscan alphabet – many of which are clearly identifiable as the antecedents of letters in the Roman alphabet – this charming work may originally have contained ink.
A small bronze statuette of a young Etruscan woman (Archaic, late sixth century B.C.) was most likely used as a religious offering in a sanctuary. Elaborately dressed in a fine, crinkled undergarment, with a heavier cloak draped diagonally across her chest, she wears pointed shoes, and a fillet with three rosettes on her head, as well as earrings and a necklace. Her left hand pulls at her dress, and her right arm – now missing – would have been extended and possibly bent up at the elbow. Although the pose parallels many Greek examples of the time, the shoes and the use of incised rather than modeled details are typically Etruscan.
Etruscan artists distinguished themselves as gem carvers and goldsmiths, and their jewelry is among the finest in the entire ancient world. The so-called "Morgan amber" (Etruscan, Late Archaic, ca. 500 B.C.) shows a couple reclining on a couch. The most complex and most important carved amber surviving from ancient Italy, it came to the Museum with the bequest of the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan. The woman wears a pointed hat, long cloak, and pointed shoes. Her companion is a young beardless man. Holes in the base contain traces of a bronze pin, suggesting that this luxury object was a decorative element on a fibula (the pin used to secure clothing). The amber came from the Baltic Sea.
Another highlight is a set of jewelry found in a tomb – the richest and most impressive set of Etruscan jewelry ever found (late archaic Etruscan, early fifth century B.C.). The materials are finely worked gold, glass, rock crystal, agate, and carnelian. The set comprises a splendid gold and glass pendant necklace, a pair of gold and rock-crystal disk earrings, a gold fibula decorated with a sphinx, a pair of plain gold fibulae, a gold dress pin, and five finger rings. Two of the rings have engraved scarabs; one is decorated with embossed satyr heads, and the other two have decorated gold bezels.
The display also includes a group of Etruscan and Italic armor that brings to mind the political upheavals of the period, elaborately carved cinerary urns, and 14 beautifully engraved Etruscan mirrors.
LEON LEVY AND SHELBY WHITE GALLERY FOR THE GREEK AND ROMAN
STUDY COLLECTION (Prehistoric Greek-Late Roman) – MEZZANINE LEVEL
The installation features a large display of study material, comprising more than 3,400 works in all media and covering the entire cultural and chronological span of the department's collection, from the art of prehistoric Greece through late Roman art. Among the noteworthy works in this area are a collection of prehistoric Greek vases given to the Metropolitan Museum in 1927 by the Greek government and a Roman transport amphora given by the noted underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau. Also on view are several hundred examples of Roman glass in fantastic shapes and colors, ranging from clear colorless to darkest blue, and from greenish yellow to deep amber.
In lieu of traditional labels inside the display cases, six wall-mounted computer touch screens located throughout the study collection allow visitors to access information about each object on view. The interactive system, which was developed specifically for the Metropolitan, allows the information to be kept up-to-date with the latest scholarship on each object.
An additional gallery on the mezzanine level is devoted to the display of special exhibitions. The inaugural exhibition, organized to coincide with the opening of the New Greek and Roman Galleries, is a photographic history of the Museum's Department of Greek and Roman Art.
Location, Related Programs, and Credits
Located within The Lamont Wing at the south end of the Metropolitan Museum's Main Building, the New Greek and Roman Galleries represent the final stage in the complete, 15-year renovation and reinstallation of the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Greek and Roman Art. Galleries for prehistoric and early Greek art opened in
1996, followed by Archaic and Classical Greek galleries in 1999 and a suite of Cypriot galleries in 2000.
A new guide to the collections, Art of the Classical World in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, has been published to coincide with the opening of the New Greek and Roman Galleries. Nearly 500 outstanding works from the formidable collection of the Department of Greek and Roman Art on view in the Museum's galleries are assembled in this publication. Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art and distributed by Yale University Press, it is available in the Museum's bookshops ($75 hardcover and $45 paperback).
The publication is made possible in part through the generous support of James and Mary Hyde Ottaway, and Sandra and Joseph Rotman. Additional support is provided by The Adelaide Milton de Groot Fund, in memory of the de Groot and Hawley families.
A variety of education programs will be offered in conjunction with the installation of the New Greek and Roman Galleries, including lectures, gallery talks, an international symposium, a Sunday at the Met program of lectures and films, a teacher workshop, and an all-day conference for teachers.
A resource kit for teachers and Once upon a Time in Rome, a family guide that includes a poster as well as looking, drawing, and writing activities, are also being printed.
The family guide is made possible by Mrs. Andree Markoe Caldwell.
Audio Guides for the New Greek and Roman Galleries will be available in English, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. Some 100 audio messages have been produced about the works on view in the new galleries, joining more than 2300 other messages about the Museum's collection and selected exhibitions. The fee for rentals is $6 for members of the Museum, $7 for nonmembers, and $5 for children under 12.
The Audio Guide program is sponsored by Bloomberg.
Special online features about the New Greek and Roman Galleries are available on the Museum's Web site (www.metmuseum.org), including a slide show with narration by Director Philippe de Montebello, a history of the collection, and a photographic record of the creation and installation of the galleries. Spectacular videotaped views of the completed galleries and a series of related audio and video podcasts will be added, as well as provenance information about works of art in the collection.
The redesign and reinstallation is being supervised by Carlos A. Picón, Curator in Charge, Department of Greek and Roman Art, with the assistance of Christopher Lightfoot, Associate Curator for Roman Art, as well as other members of the curatorial staff – Seán Hemingway, Joan R. Mertens, Elizabeth Milleker – and Collections Coordinator William Gagen. The project is designed and overseen by Jeffrey L. Daly, the Metropolitan Museum's Senior Design Advisor to the Director for Capital and Special Projects, under a plan created by Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates LLP, the Metropolitan's longtime architects. The British sculptor Simon Verity made important contributions to the design of the stone floor and fountain in the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court.
The examination and conservation of all of the objects in all media was carried out under Lawrence Becker, Sherman Fairchild Conservator in Charge of Objects Conservation, and overseen by Dorothy H. Abramitis, Conservator, both of the Department of Objects Conservation. A highlight of the conservation effort was the extensive study and major reconfiguration of the Etruscan chariot, a major work in the Museum's Etruscan collection.
The cleaning and restoration of the Boscoreale and Boscotrecase wall paintings were undertaken by conservators Rudolf Meyer and Christina Faltermeyer and supervised by the late Hubert von Sonnenburg, former Chairman of the Department of Paintings Conservation, who also worked personally on a number of the panels.
Many of the coins have been generously lent by the American Numismatic Society.
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April 16, 2007