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The Met’s New Greek and Roman Galleries–Part II

(Part I is here.)

Below are some of the objects that you won’t see reproduced in today’s NY Times piece by Michael Kimmelman. The newspaper’s chief art critic uses the final installment of the reinstalled Greek and Roman galleries as an occasion to propagandize for the Metropolitan as a “universal museum.” (Can’t we just call it the “encyclopedic museum,” and leave Mars and Pluto out of it?)You also won’t see these objects in the voluminous, sumptuous catalogue of works from the Met’s collection, Art of the Classical World, published as a companion to the completed galleries. This, despite the fact that some of these works are among the highlights in those galleries.

That’s because these “permanent galleries” are not entirely permanent: Quite a few of the finest pieces are, in fact, on temporary loan.

So let’s take a quick tour of a few objects you should see now, because you might not be able to catch them later. (Loans from private collectors are for two years, renewable, according to Met curator Seán Hemmingway):

Bronze Statue of a Man, Greek, Hellenistic, ca. mid 2nd-1st century B.C., Collection of Shelby White and Leon Levy

The Getty has its Greek Statue of an Athlete; the Met, at the entrance to its new galleries, has this similarly posed, imposing statue, loaned by collector/benefactor Shelby White. Both statues are reminiscent of Lysippos, but produced later. (The Getty has rethought its previous attribution of the bronze to Lysippos, and now says that it is by an unknown Greek sculptor, working in the 2nd or 3rd century B.C.)

Marble Head of a Horned Youth Wearing a Diadem, lent by Renée and Robert Belfer

Another piece featured right by the entrance, next to the bronze statue above. The bull’s horns are missing; the quality, intact.

The Hellenistic Silver Hoard, including 16 objects that will be returned to Italy by the Met.

The Met calls these objects “the Hellenistic Silver Hoard”; Italy calls them the “Morgantina Silver.” Either way, 16 of the objects in this case were owned by the Met and will be going back to Italy, according to the terms of their negotiated agreement. Italy claims that the pieces were illegally removed from its soil and its borders. The Met, a reluctant repatriator, asserts on its wall label that it “is not convinced that the [Morgantina] provenance is correct.”

Silver-gilt Medallion, Representing Scylla, Greek, South Italian or Sicilian, 3rd century B.C., Lent by the Republic of Italy

The most strikingly beautiful piece from the case above (top shelf).

Left to right: Shallow Silver-Gilt Bowl, Greco-Parthian, Hellenistic, 2nd century B.C., Collection of Shelby White and Leon Levy; Silver-Gilt Rhyton, Greco-Parthian, Hellenistic, 2nd century B.C., Collection of Shelby White and Leon Levy; Silver-Gilt Rhyton, Greek, Late Classical or Early Hellenistic, ca. 4th century B.C., Lent by Judy and Michael Steinhardt Collection

Three major loans from major collectors in the Met’s Hellenistic Treasury, which also includes the “hoard,” above.

Bronze Head of a Young Man, late Hellenistic, ca. 2nd-1st century B.C., lent by Judy and Michael Steinhardt Collection

From the Met’s label:

The artist clearly lavished considerable detail in the making of the wax model for this bronze, to create a highly individualized work that was undoubtedly an expensive commission.

And, as I told you on WNYC earlier today, don’t forget to say a fond farewell to the celebrated Euphronios Krater (down the hall, to the northwest of the new galleries), which has a one-way ticket to Italy next year. It embodies an important argument of the archeologists—that we lose important information about an object when it is taken from the ground by non-professionals whose motive is profit, not scholarship: As the Met’s label tells us, one of the puzzles about the krater is why “an enemy of the Greeks should be featured on such a large and fine vase produced by one of the leading Athenian artists.”

Would archeological context have given us some clues?

We’ll never know.

an ArtsJournal blog