from 29/09/2021 until 16/01/2022
KALLOS. The Ultimate Beauty
The multiple aspects of the concept of Kallos in the everyday life and the philosophical discourse of ancient Greece are presented in the major, emblematic, archaeological exhibition of the Museum of Cycladic Art, titled “ΚΑLLOS. The Ultimate Beauty” and will run until the 16th of January 2022.
The multiple aspects of the concept of Kallos in the everyday life and the philosophical discourse of ancient Greece are presented in the major, emblematic, archaeological exhibition of the Museum of Cycladic Art, titled “ΚΑLLOS. The Ultimate Beauty”.
The exhibition runs from September 29th, 2021 until January 16th, 2022 and takes place with the generous support of L’Oréal.
Τhis exhibition displays three hundred emblematic antiquities from fifty-two museums, collections, and Ephorates of Antiquities throughout Greece, as well as from Italy, and the Vatican. The overwhelming majority appear for the first time outside of the museums of their provenance. They meet and mingle in the Museum of Cycladic Art, so as to give an integrated picture of the ideal of Kallos, inadequately translated into English as Beauty.
The selected exhibits date mainly from the seventh to the first century BC – that is, from the Archaic to the Hellenistic period – and are complemented by a handful of works of Roman times in those cases where the original creations of earlier periods have survived only in copies.
Kallos is an ideal developed in ancient Greek thinking and was expressed through the verses of the epic (8th century BC) and lyric (7th – 6th century BC) poets, initially as outward beauty. From the sixth century BC onwards, the concept was crystallized gradually through the texts of the philosophers, who referred to Kallos as a combination of physical appearance and virtues of the soul. It is on this dimension of Kallos that the exhibition of the Museum of Cycladic Art concentrates, enhancing the contribution of ancient Greece to defining the notion of beauty that prevails to this day.
In this exhibition, Kallos is conveyed through a vast wealth and variety of antiquities, such as statues, vases, sherds (broken ceramics), mirrors, jewellery, perfume vases, accessories of the toilette and beautification (cosmetic unguents, pigments, and so on), objects of clay, stone metal and terracottas of various periods, mainly Archaic, Classical and Hellenistic figurines, tools for styling the hair, such as iron scissors, little combs, and so on.
The geographical provenance of the objects was selected on the basis of specific criteria: the exhibits come from all over mainland and island Greece, so as to emphasize the participation of most of the cities of Greek Antiquity and the diffusion of the concept of Kallos to all sectors of society. The exhibition also hosts a corresponding number of antiquities from Magna Graecia, enabling the visitor to comprehend the phenomenon of the dispersion of the notion of Kallos also to the Greek colonies in the West.
The exhibition also includes artifacts from the Vatican Museum, the Archaeological Museums of Florence, Naples, Rome, Bologna, Venice, Syracuse, Catania and the National Archaeological Park of Ostia. From the initial selection of six hundred pieces, three hundred were chosen, as the museological study demanded those that best strengthened each section, in order to make them most intelligible to the public.
Archaic and Classical beauty
Kallos, as a concept that overarches physical beauty and virtues of the soul, begins to take shape in ancient Greek philosophical thinking during the Archaic period (6th century BC) and subsequently during Classical (5th – 4th century BC) and Hellenistic times (3rd – 2nd century BC). Conveyed through a series of works of superb art, mainly sculptures, of the Archaic and Classical periods is the representation of the human figure but also its ethos. Outstanding among the exhibits is the Acropolis Kore with the sobriquet ‘Chiotissa’ (Chian Maiden), as well as the protome of a female figure from a funerary monument in Rhodes.
This unit showcases the spirit of self-sacrifice for the common good, acts of heroism in wartime and peacetime, sometimes in combination also with physical beauty. The heroes are on a higher plane than common mortals and frequently become demi-gods. A prominent position is accorded to the par excellence hero of ancient Greek mythology, Herakles, while other renowned heroes follow, such as Achilles, Meleager, but also Atalante the famed and very beautiful huntress. The Amazons, female warriors, are present too, alongside statuettes and representations of hoplites.
Beauty comes always from the gods, who possess it in the ultimate degree. Even the most beautiful humans are considered as equal in beauty to the gods and never surpass them. Moreover, each deity has his/her own distinctive trait, in Greek mythology with which he/she is attributed to ancient Greek artworks: Zeus with majesty, Hera with sobriety, Aphrodite with beauty of face and body, Athena with solemnity and wisdom, Aris with vigour, Poseidon with the power of Nature, Apollo with comeliness and calm, Artemis with severity.. A unique series of sculptural works is included in this unit, among them statues. Notable are the heads of the statues of Dionysos and Apollo-Helios from Thasos and Rhodes, respectively.
In ancient Greek thinking, beauty of humans exists in every age and thanks to this many mortals became immortal. Mythical, but also actual figures of antiquity, famed for their physical beauty, such as Adonis, Fair Helen (of Troy) on the one hand and Alexander the Great on the other, together with anonymous mortals of everyday life, make up this unit.
“Kaloi” and “kales” in Antiquity
Praise of the physical beauty of ordinary young persons, male and female, in ancient Greece, by their contemporaries and peers is evidenced by inscriptions incised (graffiti) on vases or painted on stone architectural members, and so on. Presented in this unit is a large corpus of inscriptions praising the beauty of young athletes and warriors, courtesans (hetaires) as well as ladies of the house.
Displayed here are works in which physical and mental strength and vigour are uppermost, making man capable of coping with the difficulties and the demands of athletic contests, in combination with noble competition (“fair play”) and his admirable achievements on the running track. Heads of athletes crowned with victory wreaths, together with gymnasium scenes and accoutrements of athletes are featured. Exceptional among the exhibits is an Archaic base of a Kouros statue with superbly carved representations of activities in the gymnasium. Noteworthy too is a rare bronze statuette of a female athlete from Dodone.
Abductions of beauty and erotic encounters
The attraction of the beauty of lovely mortals leads gods and heroes to pursue them, to abduct them and to lie with them or to possess them forever. Abundant are the references in myths to such cases: Zeus and Ganymede, Theseus and Antiope, and so on.
Beauty contest of deities
Paris, prince of Troy, is called upon to decide which goddess is the most beautiful and to give her an apple as victory prize. The competition is won by Aphrodite, goddess of beauty, who promises to give to Paris the most beautiful mortal woman in the world, Helen, queen of Sparta. Three uniquely beauteous busts of the goddesses who took part in the contest, namely Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, dominate this unit, on loan from the National Archaeological Museum in Athens and from the Museum of Bologna.
In Greek mythology there are many hybrid beings (Mischwesen), such as the Sphinx, Medusa, Skylla, Satyrs, who in their initial representation in art are wild and ugly, while over time they are humanized, eventually acquiring beauty. Among them are the remarkably beautiful Sphinx from Thermos and that from Amphipolis, the figures of Skylla from Ostia and Eleutherna.
Timely beauty untimely death
Youths in their prime, their “finest hour” are described in ancient Greek as Ωραίοι» (Horaioi, which is translated as lovely and has as root the word ώρα [hora] meaning hour). Those whom fate decreed should depart this world before reaching their “finest hour”, who die an untimely death are qualified as άωροι (a[h]oroi = before their “hour” or prime). Two grave stelai, one Archaic from Akraiphnion in Boeotia, and one Classical of a young girl from Kallikrateia in the Chalkidike, converse in a unique coexistence in the same space.
This unit displays a unique array of objects used in daily life. It follows the Homeric description of Hera’s toilette, the procedure of beautification in all its stages, from the bath, the anointing of the body with perfumes and unguents, the care of the face and the body, the hairstyle, even the attire and adornment with jewellery. Outstanding are the vases with scenes of selling perfumes, as well as a rare incunabulum with a text by Theophrastus on the preparation and use of perfumes in antiquity.
Reduced ticket: 10€
Free entrance for Friends of the Museum of Cycladic Art
The entry into the museum will be allowed only to those over 17 years old who have and demonstrate a vaccination certificate or a certificate of recovery from covid-19 (up to 3 months).
• Admission to minors, from 4 to 17 years old, is allowed with the self-test certificate form (taken no longer than 24 hours) or a rapid-test certificate (taken no longer than 48 hours). We kindly ask you to complete and demonstrate the negative self-test certificate form at the Museum’s entrance.
• Identity will be checked by proving identity or passport or driving license.
Professor Nikolaos Chr. Stampolidis, Dr Ioannis D. Fappas
Museographical Design: Despoina Tsafou
Spatial Design: ΑΚΑ Apostolou Colakis architects
ASlight Studio (Anna Sbokou, Catia Milia-Argeiti)
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