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The Ultimate Beauty
29/09/2021 – 16/01/2022

Introduction

Marble statue of Eros stringing his bow. It is considered one of the closest copies to the bronze original work created by Lysippos in 335 BC.

Marble statue of Eros stringing his bow. It is considered one of the closest copies to the bronze original work created by Lysippos in 335 BC.

Bequest of Cardinal Giovanni Grimani (1587).
1st cent. AD. Venice, National Archaeological Museum 121.
© Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Venezia.

The multiple aspects of the concept of Kallos in the everyday life and the philosophical discourse of ancient Greece are presented in the major, emblematic, archaeological exhibition of the Museum of Cycladic Art, titled “ΚΑLLOS. The Ultimate Beauty” and will run until the 16th of January 2022.

Kallos is an ideal developed in ancient Greek thinking and was expressed through the verses of the epic (8th century BC) and lyric (7th – 6th century BC) poets, initially as outward beauty. From the sixth century BC onwards, the concept was crystallized gradually through the texts of the philosophers, who referred to Kallos as a combination of physical appearance and virtues of the soul. It is on this dimension of Kallos that the exhibition of the Museum of Cycladic Art concentrates, enhancing the contribution of ancient Greece to defining the notion of beauty that prevails to this day.

In this exhibition, Kallos is conveyed through a vast wealth and variety of antiquities, such as statues, vases, sherds (broken ceramics), mirrors, jewellery, perfume vases, accessories of the toilette and beautification (cosmetic unguents, pigments, and so on), objects of clay, stone metal and terracottas of various periods, mainly Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic figurines, tools for styling the hair, such as iron scissors, little combs, and so on.

Τhis exhibition displays three hundred emblematic antiquities from fifty-two museums, collections, and Ephorates of Antiquities throughout Greece, as well as from Italy, and the Vatican. The overwhelming majority appear for the first time outside of the museums of their provenance. They meet and mingle in the Museum of Cycladic Art, so as to give an integrated picture of the ideal of Kallos, inadequately translated into English as Beauty.

The geographical provenance of the objects was selected on the basis of specific criteria: the exhibits come from all over mainland and island Greece, so as to emphasize the participation of most of the cities of Greek Antiquity and the diffusion of the concept of Kallos to all sectors of society. The exhibition also hosts a corresponding number of antiquities from Magna Graecia, enabling the visitor to comprehend the phenomenon of the dispersion of the notion of Kallos also to the Greek colonies in the West.

In the introductory section of the Exhibition, specific exhibits annotate various aspects of Kállos: the Sphinx from Mycenae, as a prehistoric prelude to the notion of beautification; Aphrodite and Apollo, divine symbols of female and male beauty; the poetess Sappho (7th – 6th century BC), one of the first extollers of beauty in its ultimate manifestation; Penelope in front of her loom, eternal symbol of moral beauty; Herakles and Geras, the pinnacle and the decline of beauty; and the coupling of opposites – good and evil, beautiful and ugly.

CURATED BY
Professor Nikolaos Chr. Stampolidis, Dr Ioannis D. Fappas

With the generous support of L’Oréal.

 

Exhibition’s Section Videos

Marble statue of a dancing Lakaina (Laconian Maiden), an original work of the fifth century BC. The young girl wears a slit Laconian peplos with overfold (apoptygma) on the torso. On top of her head is a hole for inserting a kalathiskos (small basket). This original work probably stood originally on the Acropolis of Athens.

Marble statue of a dancing Lakaina (Laconian Maiden), an original work of the fifth century BC.
The young girl wears a slit Laconian peplos with overfold (apoptygma) on the torso.
On top of her head is a hole for inserting a kalathiskos (small basket). This original work probably stood originally on the Acropolis of Athens.

From the villa of Herodes Atticus at Eua/Loukou, Kynouria.
420 – 415 BC. Archaeological Museum of Astros 356α.
© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of Arcadia/H.O.C.RE.D.
Photograph: Irini Miari.
Sculptural lime-plaster head of a female figure.
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Sculptural lime-plaster head of a female figure.

From the citadel of Mycenae.
13th cent. BC. Athens, National Archaeological Museum Π 4575.
© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/National Archaeological Museum/H.O.C.RE.D.
Photograph: Yannis Patrikianos.
Marble statuette of Aphrodite riding a dolphin.
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Marble statuette of Aphrodite riding a dolphin.

From the sanctuary of Poseidon on Thasos.
2nd – 1st cent. BC. Archaeological Museum of Thasos Λ 19.
© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of Kavala/H.O.C.RE.D.
Fragment of a clay red-figured krater with representation of Apollo kitharodos (singing and playing the kithara).
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Fragment of a clay red-figured krater with representation of Apollo kitharodos (singing and playing the kithara).

From the Prytaneion of Ambrakia.
5th cent. BC. Archaeological Museum of Arta 3169α.
© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of Arta/H.O.C.RE.D.
Photograph: Stephanos Stournaras.
Clay red-figured hydria with depiction of Sappho.
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Clay red-figured hydria with depiction of Sappho.

From Vari in Attica.
440 – 430 BC. Athens, National Archaeological Museum Α 1260.
© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/National Archaeological Museum/H.O.C.RE.D.
Photograph: Costas Xenikakis.
Clay red-figured skyphos with representation of Penelope sitting on a stool, next to a vertical loom.
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Clay red-figured skyphos with representation of Penelope sitting on a stool, next to a vertical loom.

From Chiusi (Siena).
Ca 440 BC. Chiusi, National Etruscan Museum 62705.
© Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Chiusi (Direzione regionale musei della Toscana).
Photograph: Adriano Guastaldi.
Inscribed sherd of a black-glazed skyphos with the inscription “Astyages is bad, Epigenes is good”. In the initial writing Astyages was characterized as καλός (good, worthy, handsome), which epithet was subsequently changed to the opposite, κακός (bad).
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Inscribed sherd of a black-glazed skyphos with the inscription “Astyages is bad, Epigenes is good”.
In the initial writing Astyages was characterized as καλός (good, worthy, handsome), which epithet was subsequently changed to the opposite, κακός (bad).

From Argilos.
Late 6th c. BC. (the vase), 450 – 400 BC. (the inscription). Archaeological Museum of Amphipolis C 379.
© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of Serres/H.O.C.RE.D.
Photograph: Orestis Kourakis.
Clay Attic double-headed kantharos, attributed to the Syriskos Painter. Incised inscriptions above the two diametrically opposed modeled faces: “I am Eronassa, very beautiful”, and “I am Timyllos, as handsome as this face”.
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Clay Attic double-headed kantharos, attributed to the Syriskos Painter.
Incised inscriptions above the two diametrically opposed modeled faces:
“I am Eronassa, very beautiful”, and “I am Timyllos, as handsome as this face”.

From the cemetery of Akanthos (Ierissos, Chalcidice).
480 – 470 BC. Archaeological Museum of Polygyros Ι.ΔΥ.8.
© Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports/Ephorate of Antiquities of Chalcidice and Mount Athos/ H.O.C.RE.D.
Clay red-figured pelike depicting the encounter between Herakles and Geras (Old Age).
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Clay red-figured pelike depicting the encounter between Herakles and Geras (Old Age).

From Cerveteri.
Ca 480 BC. Rome, National Etruscan Museum of the Villa Giulia 48238.
© Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia.
Photograph: Mauro Benedetti.

Three hundred emblematic antiquities from fifty-two museums, collections, and Ephorates of Antiquities throughout Greece, as well as from Italy, and the Vatican.

The overwhelming majority appear for the first time outside of the museums of their provenance. They meet and mingle in the Museum of Cycladic Art, so as to give an integrated picture of the ideal of Kallos, inadequately translated into English as Beauty.

Divine and Daemonic Beauty

Divine and Daemonic Beauty

Beauty comes always from the gods, who possess it in the ultimate degree. Even the most beautiful humans are considered as equal in beauty to the gods and never surpass them.

Abductions of beauty and
erotic encounters

Abductions of beauty and  erotic encounters

The attraction of the beauty of lovely mortals leads gods and heroes to pursue them, to abduct them and to lie with them or to possess them forever. Abundant are the references in myths to such cases: Zeus and Ganymede, Theseus and Antiope, and so on.

Archaic and
classical beauty

 Archaic and  classical beauty

Kallos, as a concept that overarches physical beauty and virtues of the soul, begins to take shape in ancient Greek philosophical thinking during the Archaic period (6th century BC) and subsequently during Classical (5th – 4th century BC) and Hellenistic times (3rd – 2nd century BC). Conveyed through a series of works of superb art, mainly sculptures, of the Archaic and Classical periods is the representation of the human figure but also its ethos.

Mortal Beauty &
Mortal Beauty & “Kaloi” and “Kalai” in antiquity

Mortal Beauty &  Mortal Beauty & “Kaloi” and “Kalai” in antiquity

In ancient Greek thinking, beauty of humans exists in every age and thanks to this many mortals became immortal. Mythical, but also actual figures of antiquity, famed for their physical beauty, such as Adonis, Fair Helen (of Troy) on the one hand and Alexander the Great on the other, together with anonymous mortals of everyday life, make up this unit.

Athletic beauty

Athletic beauty

Displayed here are works in which physical and mental strength and vigour are uppermost, making man capable of coping with the difficulties and the demands of athletic contests, in combination with noble competition (“fair play”) and his admirable achievements on the running track. Heads of athletes crowned with victory wreaths, together with gymnasium scenes and accoutrements of athletes are featured. Exceptional among the exhibits is an Archaic base of a Kouros statue with superbly carved representations of activities in the gymnasium.

Heroic beauty

Heroic beauty

This unit showcases the spirit of self-sacrifice for the common good, acts of heroism in wartime and peacetime, sometimes in combination also with physical beauty. The heroes are on a higher plane than common mortals and frequently become demi-gods.

Beautification

Beautification

This unit displays a unique array of objects used in daily life. It follows the Homeric description of Hera’s toilette, the procedure of beautification in all its stages, from the bath, the anointing of the body with perfumes and unguents, the care of the face and the body, the hairstyle, even the attire and adornment with jewellery

Beauty Contest of Deities

Beauty Contest of Deities

Paris, prince of Troy, is called upon to decide which goddess is the most beautiful and to give her an apple as victory prize. The competition is won by Aphrodite, goddess of beauty, who promises to give to Paris the most beautiful mortal woman in the world, Helen, queen of Sparta

Timely Beauty, Untimely Death

Timely Beauty, Untimely Death

Youths in their prime, their “finest hour” are described in ancient Greek as Ωραίοι» (Horaioi, which is translated as lovely and has as root the word ώρα [hora] meaning hour). Those whom fate decreed should depart this world before reaching their “finest hour”, who die an untimely death are qualified as άωροι (a[h]oroi = before their “hour” or prime). Two grave stelai, one Archaic from Akraiphnion in Boeotia, and one Classical of a young girl from Kallikrateia in the Chalkidike, converse in a unique coexistence in the same space.

Exhibition Links

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