ATHENS – Two permanent exhibitions attempt to transport visitors to the world of antiquity.
The birth of Greek art in the protohistoric Aegean, the development of Classical culture and its gradual dissemination all over the Mediterranean basin constitutes one of the most influential phenomena in the history of western civilization. The MCA holds a large collection of Ancient Greek Art with representative artifacts from all periods between the Middle Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC) to the very end of the Roman period (4th c. AD). The collection is exhibited on the 2nd and 4th floor of the Main Building under the titles A History in Images and Scenes from Daily Life in Antiquity.
Scenes from Daily Life in Antiquity
The permanent exhibition on the 4th floor of the Main Building tries to transform our knowledge about daily life in antiquity (as provided by ancient texts and archaeological objects) into vivid images. Visitors are invited into a virtual tour in time and space: the tours starts from the world of the supernatural (gods) and the myth (heroes), goes through the realm of Eros, follows the activities of everyday women and men in their private and public life, explores their religious behaviour, and concludes with their attitudes against death and their beliefs about afterlife and the Underworld. One hundred forty two objects – mostly dating to the Classical και Hellenistic periods (5th-1st c. BC) – are grouped in nine separate units treating the following thematic areas:
Gods and Heroes | On the wings of Eros | Toiletry and wedding | Female activities | Athletics The Symposium | In the Athenian Agora | Warfare | Taking care of the deceased
The exhibition is supported by ample graphics which are meant both to increase the overall aesthetic effect and to enhance public understanding of the various artifacts and their function. Each showcase has a frieze of drawings accompanied by explanatory texts which provide as much information as possible about the particular subject. In order to increase the educational character of the exhibition, two short movies, have been made, using advance shooting and sound-recording techniques. In the first movie, we see scenes from the life of a man, named Leon: his birth and childhood, his involvement in sporting activities, his military training, his participation in public affairs, the preparations for his marriage to Melite, and, finally, his departure for war. The second movie focuses on the death of the protagonist, as his relatives pay him the customary honours at his funeral. The tour concludes with a hypothetical painted reconstruction of an ancient 5th c. BC town (demos) on the coast of Attica, where the hero was born, lived and died, according to the scenario of the films.
Curators: Nicholas Chr. Stampolidis, Director MCA | Yorgos Tassoulas, Curator MCA
Design: GPD Exhibitions & Museums | Boris Micka
A History in Images
The exhibition has retained a chronological structure –necessary in order to accommodate approximately 400 artefacts ranging in date from the 2nd millennium BC (focusing on material from Minoan Crete and Mycenaean Greece) to the 4th century AD– but builds and extends its narrative upon the concept of the image.
The ancient Greek city is often called a ‘city of images’. Few ancient civilizations have depicted their gods and heroes, their myths, their daily life and death in such detail. Representational art was not only reserved for public buildings and luxury items, but extended to simple objects of everyday or personal use.
Fifty thematically organized cases offer a synthetic approach to the prehistory and history of the Aegean and mainland Greece societies. The journey through time focuses on the continuous stylistic transformations of Greek art, and explores the changing role of images in the course of ancient Greek history. The exhibition includes stone vessels, pottery, terracottas, marble sculptures and reliefs, bronzes, gold ornaments, glass, and a representative selection of seals and coins.
Introductory and thematic panel texts, extensive captions, and touch screen presentations provide information about the major socio-political, technological, and cultural developments of each period.
Beyond aesthetic enjoyment, the exhibition is aimed to offer a fresh look into ancient Greek societies. Visitors are invited to view objects within their historical environment, and contemplate upon their symbolic dimensions and the power of images to carry messages of various types. Thus, the monumental vases of the Geometric period decorated with funerary or heroic scenes are seen not only as manifestations of technical command but also as carriers for clarity and order, a dynamic characteristic of Greek art. The rich warrior iconography on vases of the Archaic period is not presented only as evidence of warfare, but also as a reflection of the rising importance of hoplites in the social life of the Greek city-states, the primary Greek institution.
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