Ancient Art

The outstanding antiquities that make up the Museum’s Ancient Art collection, date from Prehistory, all the way to the Roman Era.

About the Ancient Art Collection

The outstanding antiquities that make up the Museum’s Ancient Art collection, date from Prehistory, all the way to the Roman Era.

The earliest objects date from the Neolithic period (6000-3200 BC), while these objects are followed by significant representative examples from civilisations that excelled in the region during the Bronze Age (3000-1100 BC). The minimalistic female figurines that are characteristic examples of the Cycladic civilisation (3200-2000 BC), naturalistic jewellery that reveal the majesty of the Minoan civilization (3rd and 2nd millennia BC), and antiquities with decorations and motifs inspired by nature from the Mycenaean civilisation (1600-1100 BC) stand out prominently.

The objects of the Collection from the Early Iron Age (1100-88 BC) depict people and animals, and horses in particular, subjects popular with the artists of the time. The Collection also consists of objects from the Archaic period (7th-6th century BC), from all the major workshops of the Greek world. Significant examples include Corinthian vases with decorative motifs inspired by imaginary beings of the East, Boeotian vessels with illustrations of everyday life, and those from Crete adhering to the Daedalic style. Examples of Archaic metalwork in the Collection also include swords, helmets and arrowheads.

Attic pottery, of the black-figure and red-figure style, excels during the Classical period (480-323 BC). The Collection’s numerous white ground lekythoi, burial vessels, belong to the same era. Of these, the lekythos (No.) by the Achilles painter stands out, depicting the dead with stunning realism and emotion. The Classical period also boasts one of the most important objects of the whole Collection: a bronze lebes, an inscribed cauldron; a prize from games in honour of the victims of the Battle of Marathon, subsequently used as a funerary urn.

The art of the Hellenistic period (323-30 BC) travelled throughout the Mediterranean and the Black Sea with the aid of the famous ‘Tanagra’ female figurines. distinguished for their incomparable depiction of elegance. In the field of pottery, the Collection also represents a number of other cultural centres, such as those from Southern Italy, Egypt and Mesopotamia. Particularly impressive is a Gnathian crater, or wine vessel, with a characteristic white floral decoration on a black glaze. From the same era, the ram of a small warship in the form of the snout of a sea monster is a brilliant example of metalwork from the period.

The Collection includes a large number of sculptural works, such as of marble statues, busts and votive reliefs, which showcase one of the most important aspects of ancient Greek art. Perhaps the two most impressive sculptures of the Collection are the 2nd century BC head of a goddess, probably Hera, and the marble head of Alexander the Great with sumptuous hair arranged in curls.

The Canellopoulos Collection is also famous for its remarkable jewellery. Gold and silver jewellery and grave goods from a vast expanse of history, bronze votive jewellery of the Geometric and Archaic periods, but also stone and glass jewellery and seals, mark the aesthetic approach of each era, as well as the social status of their wearers. This section of the Collection also includes numerous coins, of gold, silver and bronze, which hail from various ancient cities, as well as glass vessels from raw or blown glass. The Fayum burial portraits, named after the location of their discovery, south of Cairo in Egypt, point to Greek and Roman influences.

Highlights from the Ancient Art collection