“Athens-Sparta: From the 8th to the 5th Centuries BC,” an exhibition of rare archeological artifacts and works of art from Athens and Sparta, Greece, will open at the Onassis Cultural Center on December 6. The exhibition will be on view through May 12.
Highlights include a marble head of the helmeted Spartan warrior, known as Leonidas, from the end of the Sixth Century BC; a marble statue of an Athenian Kore from the Acropolis Museum, from the Fifth Century BC; bronze figurines of hoplites from Sparta, from the Eighth to the Sixth Centuries BC; and arrowheads and spearheads from Thermopylae, the famous Fifth Century battlefield.
The 288 artifacts in the exhibition, many of which will travel abroad for the first time, will include marble statues and grave stele, ivory and bronze statuettes, pottery, mirrors, and ancient coins from the Eighth to the Fifth Centuries BC.
“Athens-Sparta” will consist of three sections representing the cultural development of the two most important city-states in ancient Greece, along with an introduction that will focus on the two cities’ formations. The first section will explore their artistic, social and cultural developments from the Late Geometric period through the Archaic period (Eighth to the Fifth Centuries BC), including metal work, pottery and public monuments. While Sparta was not making the same strides in monumental structures as Athens during this period, it did flourish in other areas including metal work, ivory sculpture and pottery.
In the first half of the Sixth Century BC, Sparta was one of the most important centers for artistic production, particularly for bronze works, as shown in such rare pieces as a black figure hydria depicting riders and warriors, 555–550 BC, and a relief votive stele representing an enthroned couple, 550–525 BC.
The two other sections in “Athens-Sparta” will represent the artistic development during the Fifth Century BC, in the broader context of the continuously changing dynamics between the two cities, during the Persian Wars and the Peloponnesian War highlighted by an Attic black figure lekythos from 500–490 BC and a Nike figurine from the late Sixth Century BC.
In the Fifth Century BC, Attic art made advances in the areas of sculpture and pottery, which led to the popularization of these art forms, examples of which include a votive relief with the Delian Trinity from the late Fifth Century BC, and the silver Tetradrachm of Athens, 450-404 BC. In contrast, there is a decrease of excavated Laconic artifacts from this period, with scant metal work pieces and little evidence of advancements in Laconian pottery.
The archaeological evidence of Laconic monumental stone sculpture from the Classical period is also considerably less than that of the Archaic period. “Athens-Sparta” will feature a rare example of stone sculpture from this period: the bust of the Statue of Hoplitodromos, 480–470 BC, one of the most widely studied artifacts in the exhibition.
“Athens-Sparta” is curated by Dr Nikos Kaltsas, director of the National Archaeological Museum and author of Sculpture in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens 2002.
The Onassis Cultural Center is in the Olympic Tower at 645 Fifth Avenue. For information, www.onassisusa.org or 212-486-4448.