The museum’s growing collection of art works from the ancient world now includes over 100 objects, including Egyptian funerary objects, statuettes of Egyptian gods, Etruscan bucchero pottery, Greek black figure pottery, and Roman glass. Significant donations from Richard C. Brockway ’57, and James and Aneta McIntyre helped to establish the museum’s Ancient Collection. A selection of objects from this collection is on permanent view in the museum’s Mark and Janeth Sponenburgh Gallery.
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This architectural relief fragment features typically ambiguous Early Christian iconography inherited from the period when Christianity was a banned and persecuted religion. The motifs include a highly stylized bird (possibly a dove representing the Holy Spirit) and two crossed disguised within acceptable Greek motifs- a palmette design on the left and interlaced fretwork on the right. The fragment probably comes from a church, possibly from the side of an arched doorway or the wall above an altar or shrine.
The skyphos is a common type of deep-bodied drinking cup. This example is not signed by an artist, but its shape is strongly indebted to the tradition of the Athenian potter Hermogenes. The cup is decorated in the black-figure style, and features, on its opposite sides, two similar depictions of Herakles confronting the Nemean lion with his characteristic club, the most popular mythological subject in ancient Greek art. Here the artist shows the first of this heros twelve labors, as Herakles confronts and ultimately succeeds in wrestling and strangling the mythical lion whose hide was magically invulnerable to his weapons.
Etrusco-Corinthian refers to a style of Etruscan pottery that imitates and adapts the Transitional and Ripe Corinthian style (in the black-figure technique) produced between 630 and about 540 BCE. Its main centers of production were located at Vulci, Caere, and Tarquinia, in Italy. Some characteristic features of the Etrusco-Corinthian style include grotesquely proportioned animal figures with shoulder markings that over time have become meaningless circles. This pear-shaped wine pitcher (olpe) is a remarkably well-preserved example of the style. The typical Etrusco-Corinthian animal motifs appear in three registers, created in a dark brown to red brown slip with added red and white paint, as well as incised details. The characteristic orientalizing decorative elements include rays, bands, rosettes and blob-rosettes, dogs, boars, goats, a goose, and a panther.
Saint Menas was an Early Christian martyr from Egypt who was beheaded at Alexandria. His body was transported by camel to a place in the western desert where later, in the fourth century, Karm Abu Mena, or the house of Saint Menas, was built, an important destination for pilgrims.The pilgrims who visited the site left with unglazed flasks sealed with wax and filled with holy oil from the sanctuary or water from the miraculous spring. Thousands of these flasks have been found throughout the Mediterranean world. On this flask, Saint Menas is characteristically represented between two camels with his arms outstretched in an attitude of prayer (orans).
Ancient Egyptian tombs served as the eternal resting place for the deceased. Egyptian artists decorated tomb walls with scenes of the deceased receiving gifts in the afterlife and with pictures of daily life, which might show the deceased hunting or fishing in the marshes, or his servants working in the fields or leading cattle or sheep.These low-relief sculptures, presented in registers or rows on the tomb walls, were meant to serve the deceased in the afterlife. The ancient Egyptians believed that once the deceased person was laid to rest and the tomb sealed, these scenes would come to life and provide the deceased with food and earthly pleasures in the afterlife.
A pitcher is a vessel or container with a handle and a spout for pouring. In Roman times, large pitchers were used for pouring liquids, such as water or wine, while small pitchers might be used for pouring perfumes or cosmetic oils.
Knudsen Group (attributed)
This skyphos, or cup, is painted black and is decorated with small-scale geometric and floral patterns, in white, yellow, and red. The decorative scheme is characteristic of the Gnathia style pottery that was produced in Apulia in Southern Italy during the late fourth to early third centuries BCE.The decoration on the front side includes a highly stylized vine pattern consisting of grapes, leaves, and tendrils. On the back is a simple band of ivy. The shape is suitable for the symposium (drinking party), and the plant motifs are not only reminiscent of Dionysos and wine, but also suggest the way that garlands were actually suspended at the symposium.
Taweret was the Egyptian goddess of childbirth and a protector of women and children. Like Bes, she was thought to help women in labor and to ward off evil spirits that might harm the mother and baby. At the same time, she was thought to help with matters of female sexuality and pregnancy and was often associated with the goddess Hathor.Taweret was usually depicted with the head and body of a pregnant hippopotamus and wearing a short, cylindrical headdress topped by two plumes and Hathors solar disk. Expectant mothers often wore amulets depicting Taweret to invoke her protection, and small statuettes of her have been found in great numbers in ancient houses.