Innovation, Risk, Surprise

Hellenistic World Bronze Sculpture Exhibit

There’s one more week left before the inspiring “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculptures of the Hellenistic World” closes at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Seeing these exquisitely detailed figures from two millennia ago, and knowing that quite a few of them were discovered only recently, in some cases at the bottom of the Mediterranean, leaves one simply amazed.  As a whole, the exhibit is stunning; the alcove with the bronze statue of Artemis and the stag is so beautifully designed that it almost demanded to be seen, again and again, on multiple visits.

Illustration:  Pencil sketch of bronze medallion with the bust of Athena (c. 150 B.C) by Black Elephant Blog author

Illustration: Pencil sketch of bronze medallion with the bust of Athena (c. 150 B.C)–the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom–by Black Elephant Blog author

According to the exhibit catalogue, between the late seventh and second centuries B.C., Greek sculpture of the time was most distinctive for “its obsession with ever greater naturalism.” Thirty-four museums in thirteen countries on four continents contributed the sculptures that made this exhibit possible, an example of extraordinary international cooperation involving priceless treasures.

According to the organizers, this exhibition is unprecedented in its scope and ambition. Although marble sculpture was more common in Hellenistic times, bronze sculptures, such as those in this exhibition, were more “highly prized in antiquity.”  Unfortunately, since bronze was “easily melted down for recycling,” many of the sculptures were melted down and repurposed over the years.  Thus, “thousands of spectacular [bronze] sculptures produced throughout the Hellenistic world have disappeared from the archaeological record” and the finest of those that have survived are in this exhibition, say the organizers.  It’s an unforgettable experience for those who have a chance to see it.

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