Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Art Set: Ancient Gold

A gold necklace with turtles was one of five necklaces found on the body in one of the graves discovered at Vani. The Colchians apparently loved jewelry. Four other necklaces of varying lengths that were worn simultaneously including one decorated with swastikas. That symbol was common in the ancient world by the end of the second century BC. The word in ancient Sanskirt meant "well being" and the symbol was present in artifacts discovered at the site of ancient Troy.
New Yorkers may be rushing to sell their gold coins and necklaces as prices for the rare commodity soar, but for those jewelry lovers who want to see some of the most beautiful gold objects that have survived centuries, Manhattan’s newest cultural center: The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, has a stunning display.

The Institute conceived by Shelby White and her late husband, the financier Leon Levy, is hosting an exhibition that centers around gold discovered in excavations around Vani: a site that was part of ancient Colchis and is now the Republic of Georgia, on the Black sea.
An ancient headdress ornament that was made in the 4th century BC. It features a stag surrounded by deer like animals. While it is not clear precisely how the object was worn, the variety of styles evident in the animals and other objects indicate that there were influences from various cultures that impacted its sophisticated design. A pair of gold temple ornaments from 400 to 350 BC. The two riders on horses with elongated legs that reach down to wheels of carriages were worn hung on a crown of diadem.
No one knows if the ancients Greeks ever got as far as Colchis, but the myth of Jason and the Argonauts, where he went in search of the golden fleece and married the local Colchian princess Medea, suggests that he may have.

Scholars like to connect the myth to the writings of an ancient historian who described how sheepskin would be left in steams and its lanolin would attract flecks of the metal.

Whether or not Jason made the trip, two things are true. Vani was a site that yielded much gold and while it was far from ancient Greece, the Greek influence is evident in the stunning necklaces, bracelets that the exhibition has on display through June 1 at its gallery.
Four gold armbands: from the Achaemenid period of mid 5th century B.C with calves’ heads, feline shaped finials and gazelle. Achaemined was the king of Cyprus and established the Persian empire. His successors later conquered areas around the Black Sea. These armbands look to be imports from his empire.
A visit to the gallery at 15 East 84th Street also offers the chance to see a building that has been designed by Annabelle Selldorf, who did the now hugely popular Neue Gallerie. And it is within walking distance of the Metropolitan Museum, the Neue and the Whitney.

Another benefit: though gold is rare and costly, there is no charge to visit the exhibit.

— Geraldine Fabrikant
Click here for NYSD Contents