It displays nearly a thousand works of art from Classical Antiquities in five halls, and presents such world-famous pieces as the Greek Figure of a Maiden, known everywhere as the "Budapest dancer", the Grimani jug, or the slabs of the marble relief cycle depicting the battle of Actium, including the famous relief acquired in 2000. The exhibited works of art provide a "palpable" aid for discovering all that brings together our own age and Classical Antiquity, the common tradition of European peoples, and all that sets them apart.
The walls of the five halls are painted in different colours so as to make orientation easier among the works of art presented in an exhibition space of 800 square metres. The first two halls, painted blue, display Greek art from its beginnings to Hellenistic times. In the third, terracotta hued hall, visitors encounter the arts of pre-Roman Italian cultures, primarily Etruscan finds. The last two halls, with walls painted grey, provide an excellent illustration of the art of Rome and its provinces.
The exhibition’s underlying conception melds tradition and innovation. The installation follows the traditional method of grouping works of art in chronological order, according to artistic centres. The novelty lies in exhibiting photos of the collection’s patrons, promoters and keepers on the walls, showing that without the enthusiasm of these supporters of art – grain-merchants and Habsburg archdukes alike – in the past two hundred years of Hungarian history, these works of art could never have been put on view. An additional innovation was to display fakes and modern copies among the original pieces, highlighting their differences in quality through both the colour and the phrasing of their inscriptions. This idea serves a dual purpose: on the one hand, it makes visitors aware of the fact that these ancient works of art still exert an active and provocative influence; on the other hand, it urges independent visual activity and the observation of qualitative and stylistic differences through the comparison of ancient works of art and their present-day copies.
Image: Chalcidian Amphora, ca. 530 B.C., height: 28,2 cm
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