Monday, January 23, 2006

Perseus at the Met

This weekend, my wife and I visited the Greek Antiquities wing of the Met (the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City). It's easy to miss because you have to go left from the main entrance instead of forging directly ahead.

Last time I visited, I didn't find that wing until the very end of the day and my head was already throbbing with the discord of European Impressionist followed by Asian Art, African, Mexican, Early American (including a breathtaking collection of Tiffany glass), Modern Art (some Warhol and that giant, autumnal Jackson Pollock). Considered by most people to be one of the top three museums in the world, it certainly packs a punch.

This time we were wiser. We entered the building and immediately headed left. We limited our taste of the museum's treasures to a double helping of Hellenic history.

I loved the ancient coins. They weren't spectacularly round, but the image of Athena's owl is hauntingly like the Greek one Euro coin of today. Plus ├ža change...

The armor from the Bronze Age was also amazing. One can picture the fellas from theIliadd screaming up the beach toward the walls of Troy wearing those very items. The yseemed very lightweight when compared to Medieval armor- so they probably had both better mobility and less protection. The feats of Achilles, Ajax (the greater), and Hector certainly seem plausible. A heavy throw of one of their spears could pierce their enemy's armor.

Finally, we saw the magnificent statue of Perseus triumphantly holding aloft the head of Medusa (the only one of the three Gorgon sisters to not be immortal). The statue was actual by an Italian sculptor of the Renaissance, so it wasn't nearly as Hellenic as the previous exhibits, but the story of Perseus still rippled from the stone.

In the story, Athena had given him a special sack for transporting Medusa's head, but the Italian has him waving the thing about like an autographed picture of Zeus. Now that I think about it, that might acutally be Perseus. Petrified by his own stupidity. But, it probably isn't.

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