Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2011
In the second half of the nineteenth century, archaeologists began to focus on understanding prehistoric Greece and its extraordinary flowering during the Greek Bronze Age (about 3000–1050 B.C.). Heinrich Schliemann's discovery of wealthy tombs at Mycenae in 1876 brought to life the Heroic Age immortalized in the epic poetry of Homer, in which King Agamemnon’s palace was described as "rich in gold." Twenty-four years after Schliemann's find, the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans began excavations at Knossos, on the island of Crete, that would yield a vast complex of buildings belonging to a sophisticated prehistoric culture, which he dubbed Minoan after the legendary King Minos. Evans hired a Swiss artist, Emile Gilliéron (1850–1924) and later his son, Emile (1885–1939), as chief fresco restorers at Knossos, where they worked for more than thirty years. The Gilliérons also established a thriving business catering to the popular demand for reproductions of antiquities from the newly identified Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. The current exhibition Historic Images of the Greek Bronze Age: The Reproductions of E. Gilliéron & Son focuses on the colorful and carefully crafted reproductions made by the Gilliérons, which were disseminated around the world and provided a vivid impression of the new finds that inspired a generation of writers, intellectuals and artists, from James Joyce and Sigmund Freud to Pablo Picasso. While there have been previous exhibitions in Europe devoted to the Gilliérons' work, this is the first such presentation in North America.