The Anxiety of (Ancient) Influence

The Berlin Green Head. Egyptian, about 400–300 B.C. Photo Credit: bpk Bildagcntur / Ägyptisches Museum und Papyrussammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin – Preußischer Kulturbesitz / Sandra Steiss / Art Resource, NY

Museum director forewords to exhibition catalogs are usually kind of boring. Timothy Potts' preface to the Getty Center's "Beyond the Nile: Egypt and the Classical World" packs a surprise. Potts says that "Nile" is to be the first of a series of Getty exhibitions on interconnections between Greco-Roman antiquity and surrounding cultures. Under the heading of "The Classical World in Context," future shows will explore Mediterranean interaction with Persia, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, the Levant, South Asia, and the Eurasian Steppes. This will complement a sizable space in the reinstalled Getty Villa for loan-term loans of works from neighboring cultures. Opening April 18 is a set of portraits from Palmyra on loan from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.

Recent scholarship has sought to understand how ancient cultures influenced each other. Museums have lagged in presenting such findings to the public. "Beyond the Nile" is a celebration of the hybrid, mixed-up, and messy. It shows how Egypt imported artists and tchotchkes from the Minoan civilization; how Egypt's stone sculptures inspired the Archaic Greek kouros and the classical naturalism that came after; how Egyptians ripped off Greek naturalism; how the Romans adopted such motifs as hippopotami, hieroglyphics, and obelisks.

The "Classical World in Context" initiative sounds like it could be for antiquity what PST has been for the Pacific Rim.
Hippopotamus. Roman, 2nd century AD. Ny Carlsberg Glypotek, Copenhagen

Relief with Snake-Bodied Deities. Romano-Egyptian, 300 BC–100 AD. British Museum

Mosaic with a View of the Nile. Roman, 100 BC–100 AD. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Io Arriving in Egypt (at Canopus), 62–79 AD. Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
Obelisk Honoring Emperor Domitian and the Goddess Isis. Romano-Egyptian, 88-89 AD. Museo del Sannio, Benevento


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