Published: March 9, 2010
A rare, recently excavated ancient Roman dining set consisting of 20 silver objects †one of only three such sets from the region of Pompeii known to exist in the world †and an important ancient Greek kylix (drinking cup) have been installed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s galleries for Greek and Roman art as part of an ongoing exchange of antiquities between the Republic of Italy and the museum.
The collaborative agreement, established in 2006, involved the transfer of title and the return of several works of art, including the Euphronios krater (circa 515 BCE). It also provided for long-term loans of comparably great works of ancient art from the Republic of Italy. The agreement furthermore provided for the exhibition of 16 Hellenistic silver pieces from the Third Century BCE on a rotating basis every four years. In 2006 and 2008, four magnificent loans came to the Met, and the present loans coincide with the four-year return of the Hellenistic silver to Sicily.
The terracotta kylix lent by the Republic of Italy is one of the most famous surviving works from the region of Sparta that was exported to Italy in antiquity. Dated between about 575 and 560 BCE, the Laconian kylix shows a spirited mythological scene: two wind gods, the Boreads, rush to punish the predatory harpies. It is on view on the east side of the Robert and Renée Belfer Court.
The silver objects †the Moregine Treasure †represent one of the few Roman silver dining sets to survive from the First Century CE. They include vessels for holding, serving and receiving food, as well as receptacles for mixing, pouring and drinking liquids. Buried in the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE and excavated in 2000 at Moregine on the outskirts of Pompeii, the silver weighs nearly 9 pounds. It had been carefully placed in a wicker basket and hidden in the basement of an unfinished public bath house; presumably, its owner had hoped to return for it, but died in the eruption.
The two canthari (drinking cups) are of particular interest and were likely prized antiques at the time they were buried, having been made more than a century earlier at the very end of the Hellenistic era, likely in Alexandria, Egypt. They seem to commemorate what is sometimes known as the Treaty of Brundisium between Mark Anthony and Octavian in 40 BCE, just four years after the assassination of Caesar. This historic treaty gave Mark Anthony command of the eastern Roman provinces, while Octavian was given control over Italy and the West.
The Moregine Treasure is on view in the museum’s Hellenistic Treasury, along with other luxury goods of the Hellenistic and early Roman Imperial periods.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art is at 1000 Fifth Avenue. For information, 212-535-7710 or www.metmuseum.org .
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