Washington, DC – In the first exhibition devoted to Byzantine art at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, some 170 rare and important works, drawn exclusively from Greek collections, will offer a fascinating glimpse of the soul and splendor of the mysterious Byzantine Empire. On view in the West Building from October 6, 2013, through March 2, 2014, Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections will trace the development of Byzantine visual culture from the fourth to the 15th century, beginning with the ancient pagan world of the late Roman Empire and continuing to the opulent and deeply spiritual world of the new Christian Byzantine Empire.
Recognized masterpieces, many never lent before to the United States, will be on view with newly discovered and previously unpublished objects from recent archaeological excavations in Greece. Sculptures, icons, mosaics, frescoes, manuscripts, metalwork, jewelry, glass, embroideries, and ceramics are being loaned by the Benaki Museum, Byzantine and Christian Museum, National Archaeological Museum, and Numismatic Museum, all in Athens, and the Museum of Byzantine Culture in Thessaloniki, as well as from collections in Argos, Corinth, Crete, Kastoria, Mistra, Patmos, Rhodes, and Sparta, among others. After Washington, the exhibition travels to the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, where it will be displayed at the Getty Villa from April 9 through August 25, 2014.
“We are delighted to present the Byzantine period to our visitors. The earliest paintings in our own collection from the 13th century would not have been possible without these Byzantine precedents,” said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art, Washington.
“This exhibition will present to the American public the most important legacy of Byzantium, a great civilization based on Hellenism and Christianity. The 13 Byzantine Museums of Greece are the only museums in the world dedicated to Byzantine history and culture, which are major constituents of our national heritage. Some of the greatest masterpieces of Byzantine and post-Byzantine art will be travelling to the United States in a few months to be included in the exhibition Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections,” said Costas Tzavaras, Greek Minister of Culture.
The exhibition is organized by the Hellenic Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, Culture, and Sports, Athens, with the collaboration of the Benaki Museum, Athens, in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.