Treasures of Cypriot Art Seen Outside Cyprus for the First Time
From Ishtar to Aphrodite Highlights Hellenic Influence on the Island’s Cultural Development
The signature piece featured in "From Ishtar to Aphrodite" will be a large torso of the Goddess Aphrodite, excavated in Cyprus in 1956 and leaving the island for the first time. Pulled from the seabed at Nea Paphos, Cyprus listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage archeological site the sculpture was named Aphrodite Anadyomene, literally “Aphrodite emerging from the sea”. The statue, missing the head, arms and lower legs of the Goddess, is made from marble imported from the Aegean archipelago; centuries of seawater have weathered the surface of the marble, giving the sculpture its distinctive shine. The figure’s raised right arm probably used to hold the end of her long hair, and rivet holes in her hips suggest that a drapery once covered part of the legs. Although fragmentary, this work reflects the sculptural tradition created by Praxiteles, the most famous of the Attic sculptors, as can be seen in the Aphrodite’s narrow shoulders and long, broad hips.
Greeks first settled in Cyprus during the 12th-century B.C., in the period that followed thecollapse of the Mycenean palace economy. The Myceneans, who had long traded with the Eastern Mediterranean, headed east, as evidenced by the similarity of the Cypriot Greek dialect to the Mycenean Greek dialect from that time. This establishment of Aegean Greeks in Cyprus was a Late Bronze Age pre-colonization exodus that took place long before the first organized expeditions of Greek colonization began, and equally long before the Greek polis had come into existence.
The style of Cypriot art evolved as new ethnic groups brought their influences to the island; sculptural styles, representations of deities and humans, and religious beliefs from Greek inhabitants coalesced as Cyprus was repeatedly conquered and re-settled. As the Early Bronze Age began (circa 2400 B.C.), people from the East arrived on the island. While earlier sculptural representations of the human form had focused on pregnancy and childbirth, Cypriots now turned to flat, plank-shaped terracotta images of females with incised facial features and geometric decoration, many with pierced ears, headdresses and necklaces. This led into the increasing naturalism of the Middle Bronze Age. With the Late Bronze Age arrival of peoples from the Greek mainland, sculptures began to show Aegean seals of impression and represent gods and goddesses with all of their Greek attributes.
"From Ishtar to Aphrodite: 3200 Years of Cypriot Hellenism" was organized by Dr. Sophocles Hadjisavvas, Director of the Cyprus Department of Antiquities. Dr. Hadjisavvas has extensive experience in the field, having worked in various capacities for the Cyprus Department of Antiquities since 1973. Educated at the University of Sofia, Cambridge University, with a Ph.D from Gothenburg University in Sweden, Dr. Hadjisavvas has been involved in excavations in Cyprus, and Nessebur and Preslav in Bulgaria. Widely published, Dr. Hadjisavvas’ fields of expertise
The focus of "From Ishtar to Aphrodite" mirrors that of "Silent Witnesses", a recent exhibition of Early Bronze Age art from the Cycladic Islands that was organized by and presented at the Onassis Cultural Center in the Spring of 2002. The Cyclades, an archipelago of several hundred islands in the Aegean Sea, are renowned for their contribution to the development of Hellenic culture in antiquity. This exhibition continues the narrative begun in Silent Witnesses, and also explored in Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus, currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that reveals the culture of the Eastern Mediterranean throughout the Bronze Age, its inspirations and influences, and the catalytic influence of Hellenism.
Upcoming at the Center is "Coming of Age in Ancient Greece: Images of Childhood from a Classical Past", an exhibition organized by the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, and also traveling to the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Cincinnati Art Museum. The exhibition’s presentation at the Onassis Center will feature approximately 80 objects that examine childhood in ancient Greece and will feature a special section on the Olympic Spirit. The goal of "Coming of Age" is to provide the missing narratives of children’s lives that represent a major gap in our understanding of ancient Greece. The emotional and familial environments of children, as well as religious rituals and commemorative objects from early deaths will be examined.
Recent exhibitions at the Center include "The New Acropolis Museum", which presented Bernard Tschumi’s designs for the new Museum in Athens for the first time in the United States, and focused on the technological innovations of the structure. In the Fall of 2002, "Post-Byzantium: The Greek Renaissance" presented a new look at the period after the fall of Constantinople.
The Onassis Cultural Center, located at the Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York, opened in the fall of 2000. It is the public forum for advancing the work of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation (USA), affiliate to the parent Onassis Foundation that was founded by Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis upon his death in 1975, and named after his son who was killed in a plane crash two years earlier. The Onassis Foundation (USA) aims to promote, preserve, and celebrate Greek culture of all time periods in America. The Cultural Center seeks to give the public greater access to significant cultural experiences through its ongoing series of exhibitions, lectures, musical events, literary-evenings, and theatrical performances. To help fulfill this mission, the Center provides catalogs for each of its presentations free of charge to all visitors.
To learn more about the Foundation and Center, please visit www.onassisusa.org. The Onassis Cultural Center, which is located in the Olympic Tower (645 Fifth Avenue between 51st and 52nd Streets) is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and admission is free.
For additional information please contact:
Resnicow Schroeder Associates
Sascha Freudenheim/Jacquelyn Burke
Onassis Cultural Center
Amalia Cosmetatou, Director of Cultural Events