Museum Home Past Exhibitions Greeks on the Black Sea: Ancient Art from the Hermitage

June 14–September 3, 2007 at the Getty Villa

ExhibitionOverviewEventsPublicationsYour Reaction
Bosporan Queen / Unknown

The Greeks who sailed to the northern shores of the Black Sea in the seventh century B.C. had to overcome many difficulties. The trip from the Aegean Sea was lengthy, the climate was harsh, and the waters were dark and forbidding, with treacherous currents and violent storms. Furthermore, the northern coast was inhabited by tribes of merciless warriors, primarily the Scythians. But abundant supplies of grain and fish, and the opportunity for establishing trade, made the region attractive.

Organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum and the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia, this exhibition features approximately 190 works from the Hermitage that represent the variety of material found in Greek settlements in the northern Black Sea region. Some objects were made in Greece and were imported to the area, others were made by Greek artisans working there, while a few were fashioned by Scythian craftsmen. Several locally produced pieces incorporate both Greek and Scythian motifs and techniques. Although the Greeks settled in many places bordering the Mediterranean, their interaction with indigenous inhabitants can be seen most clearly in the works of art discovered on the northern Black Sea.

The State Hermitage Museum acquired its first objects from the region in 1818. The fine quality of these pieces, which were discovered by chance, sparked further interest that led to systematic archaeological explorations by Hermitage staff on behalf of the Russian czar. After the Russian revolution in 1917, the czar's extensive collection became the property of the state and was expanded by continuing excavations. Since the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the establishment of the independent country of Ukraine, all material found in the northern Black Sea region now belongs to Ukraine and is kept in its museums, although Hermitage curators continue to excavate in the area.

Merrill Lynch

The exhibition is sponsored by Merrill Lynch.