‘Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean’ at the Musee d’Histoire de Marseille

0
136
ADVERTISEMENT

The Musee d’Histoire de Marseille presents the fabulous collection of Greek vases from the Department of Coins, Medals and Antiquities of the Bibliotheque Nationale de France which examines the work of Provencal scholars from the 16th to the 19th centuries, as well as the more recent work of archaeologists from Marseille.

'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Add caption

That Marseilles hosts such a concentration of Greek vases is well known. The port of Massalia, the “world city” of the ancient Mediterranean, fully contributed to the trade of these objects and to the diffusion of their pictorial decorations in the West. This pottery offers an imagery made of myths and heroic tales, landmarks of a civilization that Marseille still claims to be today, 2600 years after its foundation. Located a few steps away from the Hellenistic ramparts that dominate the site of the ancient port, the exhibition rooms of the Musee d’Histoire de Marseille are a highly symbolic setting for this event.

'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Black-figure Amphora: Heracles fighting Geryon, c.540-530 BC
[Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.202]

When in 2017 the Museum of Mediterranean Archaeology presented at the Centre de la Vieille Charite “Le Banquet de Marseille a Rome : plaisirs et jeux de pouvoirs”, the Greek figurative vases on display in the permanent exhibition were mostly donated by the Louvre Museum. Twenty years later, these objects were returned to Paris and replaced by the discoveries made in Marseille by archaeologists from the City, Aix-Marseille University, the CNRS and AFAN-INRAP!

'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Red-Figure Amphora: The infact Oedipus huddled against the shoulder of Euphorbius, the shepherd
who discovered him abandoned on the Cithera; Attic workshop, Achilles painter, 5th cent. BC
[Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.372]




Also featured in the exhibition are several isolated fragments from the Marseilles excavations (Vieux Port College, Place des Pistoles, Major’s Cathedral, Rue Leca, Centre Bourse, …) which find their matches with vases from the same workshops, decorated by the same artists, but with very different themes! This shows the richness of the Cabinet des Medailles’ collections and the relevance of this partnership, which allows these beautiful heritage encounters to take place.

'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Black-figure Amphora: Dionysus next to a vine; Etruscan workshop, 6th cent. BC
[Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.176]
'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Black-figure Amphora: Theseus slaying the Minotaur; Attic workshop, London Group B339,
c. 530-510 BC [Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.227]
'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Red-figure kylix: Gigantomachia; Attic workshop, Gigantomachie de Paris painter, c.480-470 BC
[Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.573]
'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Red-Figure Kater: Apotheosis of Herakles; Attic workshop, 5th cent. BC
[Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.430]




The title of the exhibition, while evoking the theme of maritime exploration so present in Marseilles, also says something about the exclusivity of the ceramic material in the exhibition: like the banqueters before them, the visitor is confronted with the poetic images which the vases present to him or her. In Antiquity, the vases offered a rich maritime imagery to the eyes of the guests who used them during the banquet, and under the brush of inventive ceramists, they also become a privileged support for the metaphorical escape of drinkers at the mercy of a “windy” sea.

'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Red-Figure Kantharos: Head of Herakles; Attic workshop, Syriskos painter, c.490 BC
[Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.866]
'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Red-Figure Rhyton: ox-head-shaped rhyton with a moulded relief decoration featuring
a Griffin attacking a horse, Apulian workshop, c.350-330 BC
[Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.1248]
'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Red-Figure Oinochoe: Dionysos and Ariadne; Attic workshop, Niobides painter,
5th cent. BC [Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.460]
'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Black-figure Lekythos: Medusa decapitated by Perseus; Attic workshop,
c.530 BC [Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.277]
'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Red-Figure Lekythos: Zeus hurling thunderbolt; Attic
workshop, Hermonax painter, c.470-460 BC
[Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.489]




Thus, with Marseilles as the starting and finishing point, the exhibition’s itinerary is marked by a strong educational ambition that prsents these objects all the cultural, artistic and documentary value of Greek ceramics. On the one hand, it is a question of ‘decoding’ a great many images (the representation of the journeys of the Greek Gods and Heroes on the black and red-figure vases) and on the other hand of ‘following’ cultural itineraries punctuated by encounters: Hercules, Theseus, Jason, Odysseus … not forgetting of course the founders of the city Gyptis and Protis, whose union and extraordinary destiny of Marseilles can be summed up in a simple cup.

'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Cup of Arkhesilas, Laconia, c.560 BC [Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.189]
'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Red-Figure kylix: Odysseus blinding Polyphemos; Laconian workshop, Cavalier painter, c. 560 BC
[Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.190]

The catalogue published for this exhibition presents a particularly rich summary of fundamental moments in Marseille’s history. First of all, the work traces the place occupied by Greek vases in the history of the collections of the Museums of Marseille (including the Cabinet des Medailles et Antiques de Marseille – today located in the Municipal Archives – founded at the beginning of the 19th century by Doctor Achard, where a few rare vases were kept before the major impetus given from 1861 onwards by the opening of the Musee des Antiques at the Borely Museum). Another important objective of this publication is to highlight the work of collectors and antique dealers in Marseilles under the Ancien Regime. This catalogue – penned by Lucien Francois Gantes – also offers a very valuable synthesis of the archaeological discoveries of figurative vases in Marseille.

'Land! Mythical ports of call in the Mediterranean' at the Musee d'Histoire de Marseille
Red-Figure Plate: Satyr figire bounded by inscription ΕΠΙΚΤΕΤΟΣ ΕΓΡΑΦΣΕΝ [Epiketos drew this];
Attic workshop, c.520 BC [Credit: BnF, MMA, De Ridder.509]

This colossal work would not have been possible without the investment of a few people in the project, starting with Xavier Corre for the Musee d’Histoire and Louise Detrez for the Bibliotheque nationale de France, who were able to share their erudition without ever giving up the desire to address as many people as possible.

The exhibition will run from July 15, 2020 to January 3, 2021.

Source: Musee d’Histoire de Marseille [trsl. TANN; June 30, 2020]