Press preview: Monday, March 15, 10:00 a.m. - noon
Membership preview dates: March 16 - 21, 2004
Public dates: March 23 - July 4, 2004
Exhibition location: The Tisch Galleries, second floor
As the triumphant Byzantine general Michael VIII Palaiologos entered Constantinople on August 15, 1261, carrying aloft the famed icon of the Virgin Hodegetria, the city's eternal protector, he initiated an artistic and intellectual flowering in Byzantium, and among its East Christian rivals, that would endure for nearly 300 years. The restoration of the "Empire of the Romans" – the basilea ton Rhomaion – just 57 years after the fall of Constantinople to the knights of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, encouraged faith-inspired art of astonishing beauty and widespread influence.
Opening on March 23, The Metropolitan Museum of Art's landmark exhibition Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557) brings together more than 350 masterpieces of Byzantine art from some 30 nations, including Greece, Bulgaria, Egypt, France, Italy, Romania, Russia, Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro, and FYR-Macedonia. These extraordinary works, some seen rarely and others never shown outside the churches and monasteries that have preserved them through succeeding centuries, are among those countries' most cherished artistic treasures. The exhibition will include magnificent frescoes, superb textiles, and monumental liturgical objects from throughout the world of Byzantium, as well as major works from European and Islamic traditions that reflect their influence. In addition, 40 magnificent icons from the Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine at Sinai will join others now dispersed in leading museums across the world, resulting in a remarkable display of icons of the Late Byzantine era.
The exhibition is made possible by Alpha Bank.
Sponsorship is also provided by the J. F. Costopoulos Foundation, the A.G. Leventis Foundation and the Stavros S. Niarchos Foundation.
"Byzantium: Faith and Power is the first major museum exhibition to focus solely on the great artistic flowering of the Palaiologan period and the subsequent appropriation of this culture by rival claimants to power," commented Philippe de Montebello, Director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "This ambitious project – the successor to the Metropolitan Museum's two previous landmark exhibitions on Byzantine art – seeks to enhance public appreciation of the exceptional artistic accomplishments of an era too often considered primarily in terms of political decline."
Mr. de Montebello continued: "The exhibition is possible only because of the extraordinary collaboration of institutions from an unprecedented number of countries – some of which have never before lent works of art to museums in the United States. We are particularly honored by the exceptional support offered by the countries of the former Byzantine sphere, especially Greece. In fact, Greece's
monasteries and cultural centers, such as Thessaloniki and Mistras, produced
moving religious art and at the same time encouraged a revival of classical learning that inspired the Renaissance in Italy. After Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453, Mistras survived for nearly a decade. Thus, appropriately, it is a Greek site that is the last outpost of the great Empire that our exhibition celebrates."
Mahrukh Tarapor, the Metropolitan Museum's Associate Director for Exhibitions, added: "Byzantium: Faith and Power has been seven years in the making. Extended negotiations have resulted in the participation of most of the countries in the former Byzantine sphere – from Greece through the Balkans and Asia Minor to Russia in the north and Egypt in the south. This generous response draws upon important international relationships that were forged during the Metropolitan's two previous Byzantine art exhibitions, and on new collaborations with institutions in countries that have never lent before, including Lebanon, Serbia, and FYR-Macedonia."
Helen C. Evans, the exhibition's curator, described the exhibition as "a unique opportunity to display the culmination of a great culture, which lasted more than 1000 years. The exhibition begins with the joyous celebration of the restoration of imperial rule in Constantinople in 1261. It concludes in 1557 when the basilea ton Rhomaion, as its citizens knew it, was first called 'Byzantium,' for during that period the Ottoman Turks, Russia, and other western states sought to inherit the mantle of the New Rome, Constantinople, through their adaptation of its art and culture."
Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557) will demonstrate the artistic and cultural importance of this era primarily through the arts of the Orthodox Church. Arranged thematically, the exhibition will begin with a gallery of donor portraits to introduce the modern visitor to the people of that world. The subsequent galleries will display sacred icons painted on gold ground, luxuriously embroidered silk textiles, richly gilded metalwork, exquisite miniature mosaic icons of glass, precious metals and gemstones, powerful frescoes, and elaborately decorated manuscripts made for the churches of the Orthodox world and other East Christian faiths. The exhibition will examine the significance of Byzantine culture for the Latin West – especially its importance in the development of the Renaissance – as well as for the world of Islam.
The Museum's Web site (www.metmuseum.org) will feature the exhibition.
The exhibition is organized by Helen C. Evans, Curator, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters, and developed by The Metropolitan Museum of Art through the office of the Associate Director for Exhibitions, Mahrukh Tarapor.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, published by the Metropolitan Museum and distributed by Yale University Press. It will feature
essays by an international roster of specialists on Byzantine art and the interactions of Byzantium with Islam and the Latin West. Essay authors include, from the Metropolitan Museum: Dr. Maryan Ainsworth, Curator, Department of European Paintings; Dr. Sarah Brooks, Research Associate, Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters; and Dr. Helen C. Evans, Curator, Department of Medieval Art. Additional catalogue authors include Dr. Anna Ballian, Curator of Late Byzantine
Art, The Benaki Museum; Professor Annemarie Weyl Carr, Department of Art
History, Southern Methodist University; Professor Slobodan Curcic, Department of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University; Professor Anne Derbes, Art Department, Hood College; Dr. Jannic Durand, Conservateur, Musée du Louvre; Dr. Arne Effenberger, Director, Skulpturensammlung und Museum für Byzantinische Kunst; Professor Maria Georgopoulou, History of Art Department,
Yale University; Professor John Lowden, Courtauld Institute of Art; Professor Amy Neff, School of Art, The University of Tennessee; Professor Robert Nelson, Department of Art History, The University of Chicago; Professor Scott Redford, Director, The McGhee Center of Eastern Mediterranean Studies, Georgetown University; Dr. Alice-Mary Talbot, Director of Byzantine Studies, Dumbarton Oaks; Professor Thelma K. Thomas, Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, University of Michigan; and Dr. Warren T. Woodfin, Department of Art and Art History, Duke University.
His All Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch, has graciously provided an introductory statement for the text. His Eminence Archbishop Damianos of Sinai, has written an essay describing the religious importance of the sacred icons preserved at the Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine at Sinai.
In addition to the catalogue, and in a further unique collaboration with the Holy Monastery of Saint Catherine at Sinai, The Metropolitan Museum of Art will publish Saint Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt: A Photographic Essay at the time of the exhibition. The photographs in this book bring to life vividly the grandeur and sanctity of the isolated monastery. An introduction by His Eminence Archbishop Damianos of Sinai is accompanied by an essay by Helen C. Evans,
with captions for the illustrations written by the monks of the monastery.
In conjunction with Byzantium: Faith and Power, a variety of educational general programs, including a program of lectures and concerts, will be scheduled for the
public and for scholars. An academic symposium of Byzantine scholars from Europe and America will take place at the Museum April 16-18, 2004.
The symposium is made possible by The Hagop Kevorkian Fund.
Byzantium: Faith and Power is the third in a series of exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art focusing on specific eras in the history of Byzantium. The first exhibition, The Age of Spirituality, shown in 1977, focused on the third through the eighth century, and was followed in 1997 by The Glory of Byzantium, A.D. 843-1261.
An audio tour, part of the Metropolitan's Audio Guide program, will be available for rental ($6, $5 for members, and $4 for children under 12).
The Audio Guide program is sponsored by Bloomberg.
Following the close of Byzantium: Faith and Powerin New York, a selection of objects illustrating Byzantium's influence on the Latin West will travel to Thessaloniki, Greece, for an exhibition to coincide with the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.