15
Mar
11

Exhibition: ‘The Immortal Alexander the Great: The myth, the reality, his journey, his legacy’ at Hermitage Amsterdam

Exhibition dates: 18th September 2010 – 18th March 2011

 

What beautiful artefacts!

Marcus

.
Many thankx to the Hermitage Amsterdam for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Black-figure hydria: Achilles with Hector's body
 c. 510 BC

 

Black-figure hydria: Achilles with Hector’s body
Attica, Leagros group, Antiopa Painter
c. 510 BC
Earthenware
h 49 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

Head of Alexander (fragment of a figure)
 175-150 BC

 

Head of Alexander (fragment of a figure)
Asia Minor, Bithynia (?)
Roman copy, 1st century BC, after Greek original
175-150 BC
Fine-grained marble
h 6 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

Cameo. Twin portrait of Ptolemy II Philadelphos and Arsinoe II (Gonzaga Cameo) 3rd century BC

 

Cameo. Twin portrait of Ptolemy II Philadelphos and Arsinoe II (Gonzaga Cameo)
Alexandria
3rd century BC
Three-layer sardonyx
15.7 x 11.8 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

Figure of Cleopatra VII 51-30 BC

 

Figure of Cleopatra VII
Egypt
51-30 BC
Basalt
h 104 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

Cuirass breastplate Italy Late 16th century

 

Cuirass breastplate
Italy
Late 16th century
Steel, bone, wrought and carved
h 42 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

 

No other king from antiquity has such a powerful appeal to the imagination as Alexander the Great (356-323 BC). Nor other king has been so often cited and depicted as an example.

The exhibition The Immortal Alexander the Great will be on view from 18 September 2010 until 18 March 2011 in the Hermitage Amsterdam, with over 350 masterpieces, including the famous Gonzaga cameo from the State Museum the Hermitage in St Petersburg. This is the first time that any Dutch museum has devoted an exhibition to Alexander the Great, his journey to the East, and the influence of Hellenism. The exhibition spans a period of almost 2500 years. In the Hermitage Amsterdam, the ‘immortal’ Alexander will be brought to life for six months.

Alexander was born in 356 BC as the son of King Philip II of Macedonia. In boyhood he was taught by Aristotle, who would be an abiding influence on him. At twenty years of age Alexander succeeded to the throne, following his father’s assassination. Two years later he embarked on the great expedition that would seal his fame. His conquests brought him into contact with numerous countries and cultures: Syria, Egypt, Persia, Bactria, and India. He founded new cities wherever he went, naming many of them Alexandria. His arrival had a lasting impact on local architecture, art, language, and ways of life: in the course of time they assimilated and displayed Greek influence, a process that became known as Hellenism.

The Greek sphere of influence was vast: it extended from Asia Minor to India, from Egypt to Mongolia. Alexander’s name and fame has endured down to the present day.

The exhibition in the Hermitage Amsterdam gives a picture of Alexander himself and of the great cultural and artistic changes that followed in the train of his conquests.

The exhibition begins with the myth of Alexander. Images in paintings dating from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, tapestries, and decorative arts display his heroic deeds and conquests. Impressive examples include paintings by Pietro Antonio Rotari (Alexander the Great and Roxana) and Sebastiano Ricci (Apelles painting Campaspe), and a tapestry depicting The Family of Darius before Alexander the Great.

The exhibition then moves on to Alexander’s reality, his native Macedonia, his teachers, his heroes Achilles and Heracles, and his ideals. The lion’s share of this reality consists of his journey, the Great Expedition to the East: an unparalleled campaign of conquest lasting over ten years, with an army that was more than 50,000 strong. Objects from Egypt and Persia, from the nomads and the Babylonians, attest to the rich cultures that he encountered on his travels. Visitors can follow the route of his celebrated journey on interactive maps and computers.

This part of the exhibition also highlights the Greek influence on those other cultures. Terracotta figurines depicting men and women, gods and satyrs, musicians and Eros, and stone fragments of architecture, testify to the artistic wealth that characterised the Hellenistic territories from the fourth century BC to the first few centuries AD. While many of these works reflect the Greek spirit of cheerfulness and playfulness, the Greeks also took an interest in the atypical, such as disabilities and deformities.

Finally, the exhibition dwells on Alexander’s heritage. Fourth-century reliefs from Palmyra demonstrate the endurance of Greek traditions outside Greece, as do papyruses bearing texts in Greek, which were still being produced in the ninth century. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Alexander played a prominent role in Persian literature, in which he is known as Iskander. He is recognisable in finely executed miniatures.

Alexander the Great is still a topical figure in our own times. Very recently (2004) a broad international public became better acquainted with him thanks to Oliver Stone’s film of his life. Alexander is a phenomenon. He is immortal. And the exhibition on show at the Hermitage Amsterdam makes this abundantly clear.

Erwin Olaf was asked to make photographic interpretations of Alexander, which he did in a photographic series and a short film. By interlacing objects from the exhibition with photographs of an actual model, Olaf has succeeded in skilfully conveying Alexander’s character traits and his handsome features.

Press release from the Hermitage Amsterdam website [Online] Cited 13/03/2011 no longer available online

 

Figure of Bacchus/Dionysus Late 4th-early 3rd century BC

 

Figure of Bacchus/Dionysus
Roman copy, 2nd century AD, after Greek original
Late 4th-early 3rd century BC
Marble
h 207 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

Heracles fighting the Nemaean lion Rome, 2nd-3rd century AD fragments with possible Italian additions 16th-17th century

 

Heracles fighting the Nemaean lion
Rome
2nd-3rd century AD fragments with possible Italian additions 16th-17th century
Marble
h 65 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

Bronze leg-protectors Greece 4th century BC

 

Bronze leg-protectors
Greece
4th century BC
Bronze
h right protector 41, h left protector 40 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

Table clock: the vigil of Alexander the Great Russia, St Petersburg (?), after original by Pierre Philippe Thomire 1830-40 (?)

 

Table clock: the vigil of Alexander the Great
Russia, St Petersburg (?), after original by Pierre Philippe Thomire
1830-40 (?)
Bronze, cast, chased and gilded
70 x 30 x 70 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

Cameo: triumph of Dionysus Alexandria 1st century BC

 

Cameo: triumph of Dionysus
Alexandria
1st century BC
Sardonyx (on carnelian plaque)
4.2 x 2.7 cm
© State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

 

 

The Hermitage Amsterdam
Amstel 51, Amsterdam

Opening hours:
Daily from 10 am – 5 pm

Hermitage Amsterdam website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Dogs, chickens, cattle’ 1994-95

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