New York, 03/17/04 - An exhibition of Byzantine art with more than 300 items was opened on
March 15 at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and will be opened for
visitors from March 23 to July 4, 2004. This is the third exhibition in
a chronological series devoted to the art and influence of Byzantine
civilization - Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557). The loan
exhibition this time also includes items from the Museum of the Serbian
Orthodox Church and the National Museum in Belgrade.
Byzantine treasures at the Metropolitan Museum of New York
March 23, 2004-July 4, 2004
Special Exhibition Galleries, The Tisch Galleries, 2nd floor
On August 15, 1261, general Michael VIII Palaiologos entered Constantinople, carrying aloft the famed icon of the Virgin Hodegetria, the city's eternal protector. This event marked the beginning of an artistic flowering that endured for almost 300 years -till 1557, when the East Empire of Romans was renamed Byzantium, the name by which it is still known today. The Metropolitan Museum of New York presents from March 15 till July 23 the astonishing exhibition "Byzantium: Faith and Power" featuring 350 masterpieces of that period, coming from 30 countries.
On Monday, March 15 from 10:00 till 12:00 the exhibition is open to the Press, from March 16 till 21 to the members of the Museum, and from March 23 and on it is open to the public. So, for more than 3 months, the public of New York -and all travellers who get there- will have the opportunity to admire some of the rarest works of the late Byzantine and post-Byzantine period -taken that some of them are exhibited for the first time.
The exhibition Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557) is the third exhibition of the Metropolitan Museum on Byzantine art. The present exhibition stands out because it is the first one to focus on the intellectual flowering of the Palaiologan era; an era considered primarily in terms of political decline.
The 350 works of the exhibition come from Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Italy, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro as well as 20 more countries. Frescoes, icons, gold embroiders, liturgical objects from throughout the world of Byzantium and major works from European and Islamic traditions that reflect their influence: all works that belong among those 30 countries' artistic treasures. Many of the exhibits come from the collections of great museums of the world. Others -mainly those exhibited for the first time- come from monasteries or churches. Among them, the 40 icons from the Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine at Sinai stand out.
The exhibition is arranged thematically. The first gallery includes donor portraits. The subsequent galleries display sacred icons, luxurious silk textiles, gilded metalwork, mosaic icons, frescoes, manuscripts and other works. One more gallery is dedicated to the influence of Byzantine culture to the Latin West -as it influenced the development of the Renaissance- and the world of Islam.
Various foundations from the participant countries helped in the realization of the exhibition -on behalf of Greece, the J.F. Costopoulos Foundation, the A.G. Leventis Foundation and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation collaborated. Finally, it's worth mentioning that from April 16 till April 18 a relevant symposium with scholarly presentations will take place.
Byzantine art during 1261-1557
The flowering of Byzantine art that followed the break-up of the Empire after the Fourth Crusade (1204) and the 57-year-long Latin occupation was accompanied by the appearance of new tendencies in art -especially in painting. The recovery of Constantinople (1261) affected artistic creation. The first phase of Palaiologan art (it lasted until 1300) is characterized by the revival of classical standards, which was also adopted by icon painting and minor art.
The general atmosphere of the period (difficult political conditions, independence in personal life etc.) has lead to the spread of private worship and the increase of icon paintings. The classical standards dominated the art of the late Byzantine period. In the 14th century, a lyrical and intensely decorative mood and a touch of expressionism characterize the art. In that time, the art of miniature mosaic icons of glass with gemstones (the size of a pinhead), known since the 12th century, flourishes, the frescoes portray faces and the icons are characterized by emotional intensity, which at the same time seems more familiar and human.
The surviving works of the 15th century are much more and represent the art that also flourished in the post-Byzantine period. Starting from Constantinople, this art spread in the Balkans and in Russia and reached the West and the world of Islam.
Works of art from Serbia at the exhibition
Among other renowned organizations and museums this exhibition was also organized in cooperation with the Museum of Serbian Orthodox Church and the National Museum of Serbia.
Beside extraordinary exhibits from other countries of the Byzantine cultural circle, the visitors will be able to admire also the masterpieces of the Serbian medieval Christian art: the sarcophagus of Saint King Stephen of Decani from the 14th century, the icon of the Holy Mother of God Hodegetria with a silver frame and an illustration of the Annunciation, the ring of Queen Theodora, King Milutin's mantle from 1300, Eulogy to Prince Lazar - Euphemia's famous embroidery from 1402, the Gospel dating from the 15th century as well as a number of icons and other items. The visitors will also see manuscripts from the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, deposited at the National Museum in Belgrade. These works of art will present the visitors the roots and the rich history of Serbia, its spiritual heritage and cultural tradition. The selection of the exhibits was made by Prof. Gojko Subotic of Belgrade and Prof. Slobodan Curcic of Princeton, well known international experts in this area.
The exhibition was opened on March 15 by His All-Holiness the Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. The opening ceremony was attended by many public figures and Byzantine art lovers. Among the present were the HRH Crown Prince Alexander and Princess Catherine of the Royal House of Serbia and Montenegro.
Visit online exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum