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CULTURE & ARTS

Rare Loan from Acropolis Museum Travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

BOSTON – Around 2,500 years ago, the Acropolis of Athens brimmed with statues of young women known as korai. These dedicated offerings, positioned on elevated bases, formed a captivating collection of marble women, paying homage to the goddess Athena. Among these remarkable artifacts is Kore 670, an exquisite exemplar rarely seen outside the Acropolis Museum. Currently, Kore 670 is on display until January 8, 2024, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), specifically in the Museum’s galleries dedicated to the Art of Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire, situated in the George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing for Art of the Ancient World.

“I am absolutely thrilled to welcome Kore 670 to Boston and take part in this momentous cultural exchange with Greece. Undoubtedly, she stands as one of the most mesmerizing and captivating archaic sculptures. Witnessing her alongside the MFA’s Early Greek masterpieces, such as the Mantiklos Apollo, will be an immense pleasure. We intend to showcase her presence through various public programs and educational opportunities. We extend an invitation to teachers and students of all ages, urging them to engage with her and explore the art and society of ancient Greece,” expressed Phoebe Segal, the Mary Bryce Comstock Curator of Greek and Roman Art.

The loan arrangement was facilitated through a partnership with the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports and the Acropolis Museum of Athens. In return, the MFA has loaned three vases to the Acropolis Museum, which are currently displayed as part of a thematic exhibition on employment in ancient Athens.

The MFA has created an audio stop, narrated by Segal, on the free MFA Mobile app to provide visitors with a more in-depth exploration of the statue’s history and details.

Dedicated on the Acropolis around 510 BCE, Kore 670 stands as one of the most exceptional examples of Greek sculpture. Originally, the statue likely stood alongside other offerings, including marble sculptures, bronze statuettes, terracotta figurines, and vases. However, 30 years after its creation, the Persian army invaded Athens, leaving the Acropolis in ruins. After the defeat of the Persians, Athenians undertook an extensive reconstruction project on the Acropolis. Many korai were buried, and as a result, Kore 670 remained underground, protected from the elements for thousands of years. In 1886, she was unearthed by the Greeks during systematic excavations.

Standing at nearly four feet tall, the statue showcases elegant and intricate carving. Kore 670 wears a tunic or chiton pulled over a waist belt, with loose fabric draping over it. Below her waist, her left hand gathers the garment tightly around her legs. The wavy vertical folds on her torso indicate the loose fabric hanging over the belt, while the shallow lines radiating from the gathered fabric on her legs emphasize the tightness of the fabric held firmly in her hand. Her red hair, which originally served as a base for brown paint, cascades over her back and chest in meticulously carved locks.

The raised gesture of her right hand suggests that she once held an object, possibly a pomegranate or a dove, likely made of metal. She adorns a curved crown adorned with drilled holes for gilt floral patterns, a carved snake bracelet on her left forearm, and disc-shaped earrings.

Kore statues were initially dedicated with inscriptions on their bases, identifying the men who commissioned the statue and the recipient of the offering, Athena. This particular statue has not been linked to a known base. Nevertheless, Kore 670 brought prestige to the dedicator as a special and elaborate gift to Athena.

Kore 670 is currently on display in the Museum’s Early Greek Art Gallery, which focuses on early Greek art from its beginnings in the late 10th century BCE through the Persian Wars (479 BCE). This gallery is one of five newly renovated galleries dedicated to the Art of Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Byzantine Empire, following a significant donation from George D. and Margo Behrakis in 2021.

Their son, Drake Behrakis, Founder and President of Marwick Associates and National Hellenic Society Chairman, spoke with The National Herald about the loan of the statue which is on display in the MFA’s Behrakis Wing, noting that when the possibility of collaborations between the two museums was first mentioned to him, he was “very happy and excited because we have so many beautiful pieces especially in Athens at the [Acropolis] Museum.”

“It’s nice to be able to have collaborations to showcase things that you really don’t get a chance to see, I think that for me was the most important thing,” Behrakis told TNH.

When asked about the statue being displayed in one of the galleries of the George D. and Margo Behrakis Wing, he replied that “it’s special that it’s my family, the Behrakis wing, of course, it’s nice that we’re able to again be the first to have something over from Athens, too, it’s very special, it’s very significant, very important.”

When asked if this is the first of many loans in the future, Behrakis told TNH, “I hope so, I know it’s hard for museums even in the States to talk to museums to exchange but I think now that we’ve opened the door and this has happened, I think it’s good to have, I’m sure they’ll be more collaborations down the road for different pieces that make sense for both museums. It adds a new element because museums have a lot of collections, they have a lot of items in storage, and so it’s good that they’re able to bring things and rotate them just for their local audience, but when you bring something from somewhere else, especially from Greece into the United States, the status is much higher, it’s much more prominent, and brings a much higher level of excitement.”

More information is available online: https://www.mfa.org/

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