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Culture

Art and sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa: Statue of the young god Hermes, known as ‘Capitoline Antinous’

This week’s sculpture from Hadrian’s Villa is a marble statue of a young nude, the so-called ‘Capitoline Antinous’. It was found in 1723/24 during the time when Giuseppe Fede was undertaking the earliest concerted excavations at the Villa Adriana. However its exact provenance within the Villa is unknown.

The so-called Capitoline Antinous, now considered to be a late Hadrianic / early Antonine copy of an early 4th century BC Greek statue of Hermes, found at Hadrian’s Villa Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums
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Exhibitions Interviews

The Power and Pathos of Hellenistic Bronze Sculpture

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Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World underscores the power, prestige, and pre-eminence of ancient sculpture during the Hellenistic Era. This blockbuster show, which opened at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy this spring, is the first major international exhibition to assemble nearly 50 ancient bronzes from the Mediterranean region and beyond in a single venue. Prized over the centuries for their innovative, realistic displays of physical power and emotional intensity, the sculptures of the Hellenistic world mark a key and important transition in art history.

In this interview, Dr. James Bradburne, the recently departed Director General at the Palazzo Strozzi, introduces James Blake Wiener of Ancient History Encyclopedia (AHE) to the finer points of the exhibition.

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Travel

The gems of Palazzo Altemps

The National Roman Museum is of course situated in Rome, but the collection is divided among different buildings around the city. One of the branches of NRM is situated in the Palazzo Altemps. Designed in XV century, this building passed from hand to hand of many well-off families,  until 1997 when it became a part of the museum. Today it is home to one of the most impressive collections of Greek and Roman sculptures. It is usually not crowded with people and during your visit to Rome this is that rare place where you can feel the luxury of contemplating the sculptures, probably alone just like all those popes, cardinals and other collectors of this kind of beauty.  Or, if you are like me and you usually do street photography, you can just take your time and click: the sculptures look very much alive but I am sure they will not move. Here are the stars of the collection.

Ludovisi Battle Sarcophagus

The Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus in Palazzio Altemps, III century AD
The Ludovisi Battle sarcophagus, III century AD
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Travel

Roman frescoes on show in Toulouse (France)

Last weekend I travelled to Toulouse to visit the fabulous exhibition on Roman frescoes being held at the Musée Saint-Raymond. The exhibition entitled ‘L’Empire de la couleur – De Pompéi au sud des Gaules’ (which translates as ‘Empire of colour – From Pompeii to Southern Gaul’) opened last November and runs through March 2015.

Empire of colour. From Pompeii to Southern Gaul, exhibition poster

The majority of Roman frescoes were found in Campania, in the region around the Bay of Naples. It is there that Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, burying much of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and nearby villas. The ash, lapilli, and mud that seeped into the houses acted as a preservative for wall paintings, but also for many households and decorative objects, as well as organic materials. Most of the paintings were detached from the houses of Pompeii and the surrounding area between the mid-eighteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth. They represent an exceptional insight into the development of Roman painting from the Late Republic to the Empire.

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Photos

Bronze statue of Hadrian from the legionary camp at Tel Shalem (Judaea), Israel Museum

A magnificent bronze statue of Hadrian, now on display at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, was found by chance by an American tourist in Tel Shalem (Beth Shean Valley, Israel) on 25th July 1975 while searching for ancient coins with a metal detector. Tel Shalem was once occupied by a detachment of the Sixth Roman Legion (Legio VI Ferrata). The 50 fragments of this statue were found in a building which stood at the center of the camp, perhaps in the principia (the headquarters tent or building).

Bronze statue of Hadrian, found at the Camp of the Sixth Roman Legion in Tel Shalem, 117–138 AD, Israel Museum, Jerusalem © Carole Raddato
Categories
Exhibitions

Roman mosaics from the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid

Two weeks ago I returned to Madrid to visit the new Archaeological Museum. Spain’s National Archaeological Museum reopened to the public six months ago after a massive six-year revamp that aimed at offering a state-of-the-art space for its collection of ancient artefacts. A total of 13,000 objects are on display in 40 rooms in a neoclassical building in the heart of Madrid.

National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid © Carole Raddato

The museum spans the history of humans on the Iberian peninsula. The periods covered range from prehistory to the nineteenth century and include Iberian pieces such as the famous Lady of Elche and Lady of Baza sculptures, Roman and Greek works, Egyptian mummies and Moorish objects. The displays also include exquisite mosaics gathered from excavated Roman villas across Spain.

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Photos

7 Stunning Roman Mosaics

The following seven Roman mosaics are all currently on display in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme National Museum, Rome. Mosaics were a common feature of Roman private homes and public buildings across the empire from Africa to Antioch. Mosaics, otherwise known as opus tesellatum, were made with small black, white, and coloured squares typically measuring between 0.5 and 1.5 cm, but fine details were often rendered using even smaller pieces as little as 1 mm in size. These squares (tesserae or tessellae) were cut from materials such as marble, tile, glass, smalto (glass paste),pottery, stone, and even shells. A base was first prepared with fresh mortar, and the tesserae positioned as close together as possible with any gaps then filled with liquid mortar in a process known as grouting. The whole was then cleaned and polished. Mosaics were by no means limited to flooring. Vaults, columns, and fountains were often decorated with mosaic, especially in Roman baths. Popular subjects were figures and scenes from Roman mythology, landscapes, and still-lifes.

To read more about this fascinating art form, see Ancient History Encyclopedia’s article on Roman Mosaics.

Seasons Mosaic

A Roman floor mosaic dating to the 3rd century CE and depicting one of the four Seasons. Black and white mosaics were very popular throughout the Roman period in Italy. Provenance: via Prenestina, Rome. Palazzo Massimo, Rome.
A Roman floor mosaic dating to the 3rd century CE and depicting one of the four seasons. Black and white mosaics were very popular throughout the Roman period in Italy. Provenance: via Prenestina, Rome.
Categories
Interviews

Roman Riches in Iron Age Denmark

otherartifacsDanish archaeologists made an unprecedented discovery in the municipality of Ishøj, located just 18 km (11 mi) outside of Copenhagen, in October 2007: an intact grave of a high-ranking man or “prince” from the Roman Iron Age (c. 1-400 CE). Hailed as one of the most important discoveries in recent memory, the grave provided a unique glimpse into the material wealth and aesthetic tastes of the ancient Danish elite. Sensational objects like gaming pieces cast in glass, gold jewelry, and an exquisite Roman wine set in bronze were among the items uncovered. All of these and more are now presented in a new exhibition, The Ishøj Prince (Danish: “Ishøjfyrstens”), at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark.

In this exclusive interview, James Blake Wiener of the Ancient History Encyclopedia speaks to Dr. Jan Kindberg Jacobsen, Curator of Ancient Art at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, about the importance of this discovery, and of how a Danish prince amassed the trappings of a Mediterranean magnate.

“Although richly furnished burials from the late Roman Iron Age are not an unknown phenomenon in Denmark, the one belonging to the ‘Ishøj Prince’ stands out. The grave was excavated, restored, and analyzed in accordance with today’s scientific standards. This has allowed for a very detailed reconstruction of the violent events that resulted in the death of the Ishøj Prince, providing a broad insight into the funeral rites and dedication patterns of the period.”