Most of the great sculptural treasures of classical art that were found in Anatolia have left the region. Present day Turkey was the site of the Pergamon Alter (now in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin,) the Ephesus site sculptures (now in the Ephesus Museum in Vienna,) the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world (artifacts now in the British Museum in London, ) and the Mausoleum of Halikarnassos (now in the British Museum.) Of course, all of the pieces from these sites were created when the land was part of ancient Greece. The land changed hands several times, becoming part of the Roman Empire, then the Ottoman Empire, and now the Republic of Turkey. Regardless of the nations that have come and gone, it is still rather disappointing to see, in a land that was home to so many significant pieces of classical sculpture, that the current day archeological museum collections in Turkey’s biggest cities, Ankara and Istanbul, are largely empty of great works. But, there are still a few notable exceptions, some beautiful smaller scale pieces and fragments, and a huge and fascinating number of b-sides that would normally occupy the vaults of other archeological museums.
We walked through a courtyard that contains many large sculptural and architectural stone fragments. The museum café is fitted into this landscape of rejected objects. Entering the museum, we lingered over the first few rooms, containing a lovely collection of smaller classical sculpture, friezes and fragments. We were particularly taken with a high-relief fragment that escaped the Berlin collection of the Pergamon Alter. After the first two rooms, though, the collection took a turn, and we found ourselves in a sea of awkward oddities. We have never seen so many strange sculptures together, and that fact in itself was really visually interesting. There is a great line of weird portraits, and a room full of ill-proportioned draped figures.
The other wing of the building contains a substantial collection of Sarcophagi, and the museum’s real gem, a piece certainly worth a trip: the Alexander Sarcophagus. We will leave that beautiful piece for our next posting.
PAFA students outside of the Archeological Museum
One of our favorites - a fragment from the Pergamon Alter relief sculptures.
Looking through the first few rooms
Lovely and strange relief fragment
Roman portrait busts
Taking studio reference photos of drapery
Our friend Dale imitating her favorite heroic size head
One of the many mosaic fragments
In the halls of sarcophagi
A section of a sarcophagus relief
A crazily designed, huge sarcophagus
The museum cafe
This monumental head in the courtyard looks very like the Medusa heads in the Basilica Cistern