ancient-art

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Superb Celtic Silver Kroisbach Reiterstumpf Coin

An exceptional example of abstract Celtic artwork on a coin, this heavy silver tetradrachm was minted by the Danubian Celts of Pannonia (Burgenland) in the 2nd Century BC.  The obverse has a remarkable portrait of a Celtic warrior, in the very finest Danubian style. The male head is shown staring to the heavens, with a long, sweeping brow, crooked nose and exaggerated cheeks, reminiscent of helmet cheek pieces. He wears an ornate diadem, his ear, ponytail and eyes are rendered schematically. The reverse has a Celtic warrior on horseback, galloping left. The rider is composed of a torso and head, his long hair tied into a topknot, with three locks fluttering in the wind behind. The horse is shown powerfully built, with a short mane and large hooves.

We know relatively little of their history but, through objects like this, we can admire their artistic creativity. On each side of the coin we see Celtic warriors, brilliantly transformed into fine, playful and yet striking works of abstract art.  One of the very finest and most pleasing examples of this charming coin type.

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The Winged Victory of Samothrace, also called the Nike of Samothrace, is a 2nd-century BC marble sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike (Victory). Since 1884, it has been prominently displayed at the Louvre and is one of the most celebrated sculptures in the world. H.W. Janson described it as “the greatest masterpiece of Hellenistic sculpture.

The sculptor is thought to be Pythokritos of Rhodes.

Statue of Ankhenesneferibre, daughter of the 26th (Saite) Dynasty pharaoh Psamtik/Psammetichus II (r. 595-589 BCE) and the last woman to hold the title of “God’s Wife of Amun” at Thebes.  Now in the Nubian Museum of Aswan, Egypt.  Photo credit: John Campana/Wikimedia Commons.

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Red-figure Nolan neck-amphora with a woman pouring a libation (top) and a youth (bottom), attributed to the Achilles Painter

Greek (from Attica), Classical Period, c. 460-450 B.C.

terracotta

Metropolitan Museum of Art

The enigmatic Kailasa Temple at the Ellora Caves in Maharashtra, India has fascinated researchers and tourists for centuries. It’s breathtaking construction points out that thousands of years ago, ancient cultures were far more advanced than what mainstream scholars are crediting them for. Everyone is trying to understand how the temple was built, ’cut from one piece of solid rock’, without the use of ‘modern’ technology.

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“They are the earliest painted portraits that have survived; they were painted whilst the Gospels of the New Testament were being written. Why then do they strike us today as being so immediate? Why does their individuality feel like our own? Why is their look more contemporary than any look to be found in the rest of the two millennia of traditional European art which followed them? The Fayum portraits touch us, as if they had been painted last month. Why? This is the riddle.”

-John Berger, from “The Fayum Portraits”