NEW YORK – Modern high technology is so embedded in our experience of globalization that it is easy to forget that it represents only the latest manifestation of a powerful impulse in the human spirit, the need transcend the mundane and familiar and explore and taste new worlds.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s (MMA) exhibition “Assyria to Iberia – At the Dawn of the Classical Age” which focuses on the Assyrian Empire which peaked in the 8th to 7th century BC and the trade empires of its Phoenician client states displays an ancient internationalism that also touched the Greek world.
The exhibition, which opens to the public on September 22, presents 260 remarkable objects in a setting that displays “the deep roots of interaction…across the Mediterranean and the Near East and their impact on the artistic traditions that developed in the region,” according to a Met press release.
One entire room is devoted to objects that show the influence of Phoenician and Assyrian art on the Hellenes emerging from their dark ages following the collapse of Minoan and Mycenaean civilization.
Many elements of classical Greek art’s depictions of the gods have their origins in the art highlighted by the Met exhibit. For example, representations of the great Near Eastern goddess – Astarte or Ishtar – were carried by Phoenicians across the Mediterranean. Aspects of her persona were incorporated into images of
Is it a mystery how the objects from the East arrived at important ancient Greek sanctuaries like Olympia, Delphi, and that of Hera on Samos – some may have been deposited by Eastern traders, other seem to have been collected by Greeks.
The most fascinating of the artifacts which were carefully assembled through the hard work of the Met team led by curator Joan Aruz over more than five years are the gold sheets, “filled with Near Eastern animal-inspired imagery, that may once have adorned the garments of divine statues” of Apollo, Artemis, and their mother, Leto.
The objects assembled by the Met,, like cauldrons with animal-head attachments at the rim and other winged beings like griffins, angels and sphinxes, document the “orientalizing” period in Greek art.
Visitors are transfixed by the amazingly detailed battle scene carved in relief in large stone blocks and there are depictions of the depredations of the so-called Sea People like the Philistines, who likely had Greek origins and are described in the Old Testament. Homer’s Odyssey is another literary source for the peoples highlighted by the exhibition.
The opening reception attracted 1200 visitors and major support was provided by The Hagop Kevorkian Fund and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
Amalia Delicari, Program Officer and Public Affairs Officer of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation in New York, told TNH that “The Foundation is a proud supporter of this exhibit. Through its commitment to the arts, the SNF has been a longtime supporter of the Metropolitan Museum and this exhibit is a unique opportunity to view artifacts that show the Assyrian Empire’s influence on different parts of the world through trade and conquests during its time of glory.” She is also pleased that among the 260 articles, “there are several artifacts from the Greek world where you can see the influence of Assyrian art, particularly in objects found in sanctuaries in Greece.”