Posts Tagged 'Ancient Greece'

Defining Beauty

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As you may know, The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum, featuring key works from the collection of Greek and Greco-Roman masterpieces at the British Museum, is currently on display at the DMA. This exhibition, on view through October 6, highlights many representations of the human body and invites us to consider how beauty is defined. Greeks believed that one’s physical, outward appearance was a reflection of one’s inner character—if one was outwardly beautiful, one must also be inwardly virtuous. The body was of utmost importance, and the physical was strongly linked to the moral in Greek minds and culture.

Marble statue of discus thrower (diskobolos), Roman period, second century AD, after a lost Greek original of about 450–440 BC, from the villa of the emperor Hadrian at Tivoli, Italy, GR 1805,0703.43 (Sculpture 250) AN 396999, © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Marble statue of a discus thrower (diskobolos), Roman period, 2nd century AD, after a lost Greek original of about 450–440 BC, from the villa of the emperor Hadrian at Tivoli, Italy, © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Now, almost two thousand years later, how much have our ideas about beauty changed? Looking at the stunning Diskobolos, do you believe that physical beauty reflects virtue? Or do you think that inner and outer beauty are independent of one another? And how much are your ideas about beauty a product of the culture in which you live? Because the DMA believes that art should spark further thought and discussion, at the end of The Body Beautiful exhibition we created a visitor response wall, where visitors can share their thoughts about beauty after experiencing the exhibition. The response wall consists of two different cards that visitors may choose to fill out—one asks, “Can you separate inner beauty from outer beauty?” and the other reads, “I don’t want to answer a question, but I had a thought about beauty…”

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As you can see, we’ve gotten some excellent, insightful, and varied comments! We’re keeping track of them, and we’d love for you to respond as well. This month, receive a $4 discount on an exhibition ticket when you purchase online prior to your visit!

Elizabeth Layman is a summer intern at the DMA with Adult Programs and Arts & Letters Live.

Two Nights in Greece

On June 26 and 27, I will offer a two-session course on the themes raised by our current exhibition The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum.

Bronze statuette of Zeus Roman period, first–second century AD, said to be from Hungary  9 5/16 x 4 5/16 x 4 3/4 in.  GR 1865,0103.36 (Bronze 909) © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Bronze statuette of Zeus
Roman period, first–second century AD, said to be from Hungary,
© The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Objects from Greek and Roman antiquity can be challenging to decipher. What the classical world took for granted is no longer part of our language, either spoken or visual. The polytheistic religious framework that defined daily existence seems alien to a modern Western observer, for whom the myths of ancient Greece are complex, overlapping, and in many cases hard to understand.

Over the course of two evenings, I hope to make these artworks of some two millennia ago feel as accessible as possible to a modern viewer, and to share observations from a lifetime of handling and studying classical antiquities.

Black-figure neck amphora, Greek, 520–510 BC, from Vulci, Italy, GR 1836,0224.106 (Vase B224), © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Black-figure neck amphora, Greek, 520–510 BC, from Vulci, Italy, © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

We’ll tackle the objects in the exhibition by medium, to give insight into the creative choices made by artisans working in gold, silver, bronze, marble, and terracotta, and make our way through the stylistic transitions of the Geometric through the Hellenistic periods.

By the end of these two nights, I hope to have given you what you need to take in not only the antiquities in the DMA’s galleries but also any others you may encounter in the future.

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Visit the DMA’s website for additional information on An Illustrated Course: The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece and to register for the two-night event. DMA Friends have the opportunity to attend the course for free; earn 6,500 points and redeem that credit for the Illustrated Course reward.

Maxwell L. Anderson is The Eugene McDermott Director at the DMA.

DMA Athletes in Training

One of my favorite parts of my job is that I get to spend one morning every month talking with our fantastic Gallery Attendants about works in the collection. So far, we have discussed European art, shared Personal Responses to works in the collection, written Facebook profiles for photos in the Cindy Sherman exhibition, and compared three vastly different works in our American collection. Last week, we spent time in The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum.

After looking at the discus thrower, the Gallery Attendants were asked to divide into teams of two. Each team had to select a sport and strike a pose that epitomizes an athlete participating in that sport. The rest of us had to guess which sporting event they were re-creating. Their poses were creative, clever, and funny, and we couldn’t resist sharing them with you!

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Shannon Karol is the Manager of Docent and Teacher Programs at the DMA.

Friday Photos: Mighty Aphrodite

Having just visited Rome for the first time last week, I am certainly geared up for our new exhibition, The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum. While there, I not only enjoyed a ridiculous amount of bread and pasta, I also discovered some fantastic ancient artwork. One lady that I liked to search for in the many museum collections was Venus or, as she was known to the Greeks, Aphrodite. Here are some ancient sculptures of the Goddess of Love that I came across during my trip:

Stop by and visit Aphrodite and some more beautiful bodies in the exhibition when it opens this Sunday, May 5. And if you’re a DMA Friend, don’t forget to check in for your special exhibition badge!

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives


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