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Event Opening of the galleries devoted to the East Mediterranean in the Roman Empire
Portrait féminin. Antinoé, IIe siècle apr. J.-C. (fond bleu)
© 1998 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet
The galleries devoted to the East Mediterranean in the Roman Empire were created through the sponsorship of Bouygues Construction. The restoration of mosaics within the framework of the project was carried out with the support of JT International and the Louvre International Circle.
Alongside the inauguration of the new galleries for the Department of Islamic Art this September, the Louvre is also opening new permanent exhibition rooms, located around the Cour Visconti, designed to showcase a collection of artworks representing Late Antiquity in the East Mediterranean basin.
This period was characterized by the emergence of a civilization founded on the dual heritage of Greece and Rome. To help visitors understand how the collection was put together, a unifying theme runs throughout the department: “acculturation”—the process by which local populations assimilated and adapted to the Greco-Roman culture.
The collections of objects dating from the Roman period (1st century BC - 4th century AD) and originating in Egypt and the Near East (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Turkey) were initially divided between the Louvre’s three archaeological departments according to stylistic criteria: the most Hellenistic (notably statuary and Greek and Latin inscriptions) went to the Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities, while the Departments of Near Eastern and of Egyptian Antiquities inherited objects showing regional and stylistic particularities. The latter two departments also tended to acquire objects from excavations or from existing collections (such as those of the Musée Guimet), irrespective of style.
The project for a department devoted to “The East Mediterranean in the Roman Empire” meant that these long-dispersed items could at last be assembled in a single space, and thereby placed in their geographical, cultural, and artistic context.
The exhibition space comprises nine thematic rooms focusing on different aspects of the art and civilization of this period.
The visit begins with a gallery devoted to Egyptian funerary art, which sheds light on the religious beliefs and artistic adaptations of a multicultural society including Egyptians, Greeks, and Hellenized Romans. The second gallery is dedicated to Near Eastern funerary art, and this juxtaposition of two geographical areas (Egypt and the Near East) helps visitors visualize and understand the differences of conception and mindset in this field.
Cult statues and furniture, presented on two levels, illustrate the religious practices that were so closely linked to the belief in an afterlife.
On the lower level, Near Eastern mosaics and Coptic tapestries illustrate the decoration of Byzantine churches and Roman houses in the 6th century AD.
The visit continues with a section devoted to public life, followed by an evocation of everyday life through ceramics, glass and metalware, furnishing fabrics, clothing and adornment.
Finally, a small room devoted to pre-Christian and Christian Nubia serves as an antechamber to the rooms exhibiting objects from Coptic Egypt.
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