Art, New York City, NYC, Upper East Side, Ancient jewelry

Precious Cargo: Pergamon and the Gold Jewelry of the Ancients in New York City

By Frankie Jay

Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World @ The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave (at 82nd St) New York, NY. 

Closes: 17 July 2016

Gold and enamel myrtle wreath. Late Classical period c. 350-325 B.C. Wreaths like these were often placed in tombs to accompany the wealthy owner to the afterlife beyond. Suspect this fellow had no dramas getting through.

Gold and enamel myrtle wreath. Late Classical period c. 350-325 B.C. Wreaths like these were often placed in tombs to accompany the wealthy owner to the afterlife beyond. Suspect this fellow had no dramas getting through.

Amethyst head of Queen Arsinoe II

[Hot tip: Jump to the end of article first for some appropriately themed music to play while you read this. Think James Bond and Spandau Ballet.]

Love gold and/or jewelry - in any of its forms? Assuming yes, then strap on the winged heels of Hermes and fly down NOW and see the incredible 'Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World' exhibition before it closes. For the first time (and likely only time) in the United States, this extraordinary international museum loan exhibition focuses on the astonishing wealth, outstanding artistry and technical achievements of the Hellenistic period (323–30 B.C.), that is those three centuries between Alexander the Great and the suicide of Cleopatra. Many glowing reviews have been written about the marvelous sculptures and artwork that are well worth a visit in themselves, but the real gem (yes pun intended) is the jewelry. The highly skilled workmanship, the layering, the intricate detail, coupled with gems and incomparable wealth is breathtaking. There were no machines to help these ancient goldsmiths and jewelers; these were done by hand, artistic skill and the naked eye. Once you've seen these pieces, turning right out of the Met Museum and walking into one of the famous modern jeweler's store further down the road on New York's illustrious 5th Ave, may make many of the modern pieces for sale, now seem disappointingly bland.

Onyx cameo set in gold hoop. Greek (Ptolemaic), Early Hellenistic period, 278-270/269 B.C.. Large, showy cameo portrays Ptolemy II Philadelphos and his sister-wife Arsinoe II.

Gold diadem with Herakles knot (The Loeb Diadem): 200-150 B.C. Imagine wearing this for a night out the the girls.

How did these spectacular pieces from the Pergamon Museum  in Berlin come to be loaned out (in fact one third of its entire collection)? This is due to the serendipitous timing of the renowned German museum finally able to undergo a decades overdue restoration; which means its the rare opportunity where it helps to not have these priceless pieces be anywhere near physical construction work. There are additional pieces on loan from the famed Benaki Museum in Athens, Naples National Archaeological Museum and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna. The Met Museum really has outdone itself with the selection and quality of the pieces to make such a coherent and beautiful exhibition. 

The exhibition closes July 17 and sadly will not travel outside of New York. So be quick sticks!

Get the terrific exhibition book here:

PS., guilty pleasure - we know after seeing all these dazzling image you've got at least one of these gold themed songs now playing in your head.

 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art