The Enduring Image

The Exhibition


The human image in ancient Greek and Roman art, has profoundly influenced European and indeed world art. The Greeks depicted the body naturalistically, although often idealistically. In the later Hellenistic and Roman periods, the notion of true potraiture, often brutally frank, was developed.

The Cycladic figurine is the earliest sculpture in this section and demonstrates a pared - down vision of the human form that appealed to modern artists such Picasso, Modigliani and Henry Moore. The archaic figure from Cyprus is a votive image, life-like because it is a substitute for a real person., The bronze statuette of Hermes demonstrates the Greek notion of male beauty-godlike, almost too perfect to be human. The massive head of Hercules exhibits an ideal which is less beautiful, though full of power. Of special resonance here, is the fact that the iconography of the hero Hercules travelled eastwards and in ancient Gandhara was adopted as the model for the Bodhisattava Vajrapani. Roman portraiture is represented by a bust of a woman with an elaborate hair style. Of a similar date is the fragment of wall painting from Pompeii showing the god of music Apollo playing his lyre. Pompeii, situated at the foot of the volcano Vesuvius, was engulfed in the eruption of AD 79 thus preserving remarkable details of everyday life.

The Greek tradition of decorated and painted ceramics is exhibited with five spectacular examples, starting with a hydria, or water jar, in the 'black-figure' technique. The magnificent amphora decorated with Dionysos and his followers is a fine example of the later 'red-figure' technique, as is the hydria decorated with the head of a Gorgon of the other two examples, the kantharos is a product of humour and wit, while the latest example, the dinos from Paula shows the way the red figure technique was further elaborated by the use of paint.

Jewellery illustrates the wide range of techniques which classical metalsmiths brought to their craft. Coins show the ways in which the Greeco-Roman world used the human form to convey such notions as political power, potraiture propaganda and the divine.


Navigation bar

| Eg
yptian Antiquities | Western Asiatic Antiquities | Greek & Roman Antiquities |
| Prehistoric & Romano-British Antiquities | Medieval & Later Antiquities |
| Oriental Antiquities | Japanese Antiquities | Ethonography |

| Home | Prologue | Calendar of Events | The Exhibition | Newsletter | Sign in |