On Ancient Greek Bronzes, Part 1

2016.02.23, rewritten 2024.05.26 | By Keith DeStone

bronze head depicting Arsinoe II, Greek, Ptolemaic Hellenistic Period ca. 300–270 B.C.E.
Bronze head depicting Arsinoe II, Greek, Ptolemaic Hellenistic Period ca. 300–270 BCE.

This is to memorialize a public event held at the National Gallery of Art on February 18, 2016 titled “A priestess or a goddess: The problem of identity in some female hellenistic sculptures.” It was the first of two panel discussions coordinated with Harvard’s Center for Hellenic Studies to highlight the exhibition, Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World (showing at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, extending from December 13, 2015, to March 20, 2016). Although both the CHS and the Gallery share a significant benefactor, Paul Mellon, this was the first time that the two institutions had collaborated with public programming.

The event featured two panelists from the CHS, Center Director and Harvard Professor Gregory Nagy and Harvard Professor Emerita Gloria Ferrari Pinney. They were joined by Faya Causey, the Gallery’s Head of Academic Programs. The starting point for the first panel was the head of a bronze statue in Boston, at the Museum of Fine Arts, which was long believed to be a representation of a Ptolemaic queen, Arsinoe II. Professor Ferrari Pinney presented an original interpretation of the work as a depiction of the historic figure as both ruler and goddess. Professor Nagy explored “the visual power of bronze as it works its way into the imagination of ancient Greek verbal as well as visual art.” For an expanded version of Nagy’s talk, see his posting from 2016.02.18.

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