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'Greece of Origins: Between Dream and Archaeology' on view at the Musée d'Archéologie nationale
Reproduction of the fresco known as the «Bull-leaping fresco» (detail) from the «Court of the Stone Spout», Knossos, Crete, 1905 (original dates back to the Middle Minoan III, 1800-1700 B.C.), gouache painting on paper; 166.4 x 96.5 cm, Musée d’Archéologie nationale (National Archaeology Museum), purchased in 1905 from Emile Gilliéron Sr., © RMN-Grand Palais (musée d’Archéologie nationale) Photo Franck Raux.


PARIS.- In France at the end of the 19th century, archaeologists and the general public discovered – amid a flurry of images, designs, gold and colours – the civilisations that have occupied Greece over millennia. Both archaeological science and modern art were profoundly affected.

The exhibition La Grèce des origines, entre rêve et archéologie (The origins of Greece – between dream and archaeology) reveals unpublished archive documents and contemporary photographs from the collections of many French museums that illustrate how this most ancient Greek past was interpreted during the Belle Epoque period.

This journey back in time presents some striking personalities, geologists, archaeologists and enlightened amateurs who explored the Greek soil using methods and ideas that recall the various luminaries of Jules Verne, ever confident in progress and the progress of science.

After the pioneers who travelled across the Cyclades and paved the way for the discovery of the first remains on the island of Santorini, two men stand out for being both exceptionally gifted and imaginative, talented scientists and great visionaries: Heinrich Schliemann and Arthur Evans. They wrote a different history of Greece that long pre-dated the classical period on the basis of their excavations in Troy (Asia Minor), Mycenae (Greece) and Knossos (Crete).

These fabulous discoveries were spread throughout France by the academic world. Salomon Reinach, then director of the Musée des Antiquités Nationales, and his friend Edmond Pottier, curator at the Musée du Louvre, did their best to introduce the visiting public to original objects and reproductions that were characteristic of the art of these «Aegean» civilisations.

The visitors of the exhibition are even able to discover, for example, the most beautiful objects from the Greek museums thanks to spectacular reproductions by Emile Gilliéron, presented exceptionally at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

But Schliemann and Evans were modern men and broadcast their discoveries using every possible medium: books, newspaper articles, photographs and drawings. This is how Mycenae and Knossos became the new fashionable travel destinations where artists like Léon Bakst went to draw inspiration from a new, vibrant and colourful art. Theatre or opera scenery, costumes, dresses and scarves celebrated by Marcel Proust will tell visitors about the «Cretomania» that swept through Paris.

Archaeologists now have a different view of these civilisations, which were discovered more than a century ago: their methods have changed, as have their questions, and it is important to know that archaeology is also built on hypotheses – or even illusions – that sometimes need to be deconstructed.

Yet it is essential that we continue to imagine the past of the peoples of the Aegean Sea. Artistic creations, whether by fashion designers like Karl Lagerfeld or by filmmakers or comic strip artists, are still imbued with octopuses and rose patterns, goddesses with serpents, red columns and golden masks.





Today's News

December 12, 2014

artnet Auctions offers an impressive selection of work by respected Contemporary artists

Marble head, believed to be of French queen, sold for 1.15 million euros at Piasa auction house

The Bacchic Figure Supporting the Globe by Adrien de Vries realizes $27.9 million

Apple computer sold by Steve Jobs fetches $365,000 at Christie's New York auction

Exhibition at The Soulages Museum pays homage to the great printmaker Aldo Crommelynck

First exhibition of work by Richard Pousette-Dart at Pace Gallery opens in New York

Gilles Ziller and André Juillard display their creations from unforgettable pictures of Blake and Mortimer

'Greece of Origins: Between Dream and Archaeology' on view at the Musée d'Archéologie nationale

Exhibition at Andrea Rosen Gallery presents group of 20th-century masterworks

Hollywood glamour comes to Australia's Museum of Brisbane in lavish world-first exhibition

Brooklyn Museum presents 'Chitra Ganesh: Eyes of Time', featuring a site-specific installation

Condé Nast fashion photography exhibition 'visually stunning and historically important'

Malala weeps at sight of bloodied school uniform at the Nobel Peace Center

Esterio Segura's first U.S. museum exhibition on view at the Museum of Latin American Art

First New York solo show for Kenny Rivero opens at Shin Gallery

Yang Fudong's first major solo exhibition in Southeast Asia opens at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art

Cristina Fiorenza's latest body of work on view at Gallery Molly Krom

Exhibition at Lookout Gallery features the most recent works by a Russian photographer Jana Romanova

The Ashmolean launches a special online exhibition marking Remembrance Day 2014

German artist Peter Piller opens exhibition at Fotomuseum Winterthur

First comprehensive retrospective of Lynn Hershman;s work opens at ZKM

New works by Japanese artist Taku Obata on view at Jonathan LeVine Gallery

Exhibition chronicles the legacy of artists who address tensions between freedom and control

Pakistani artist Imran Qureshi exhibits at Ikon

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