It’s time to schedule a trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to see a new gallery that highlights Greek, Roman and Etruscan jewelry dating back to the 4th century B.C. The standout of the collection is a single earring depicting the goddess Nike driving a two-horse chariot. Barely two inches long, the earring is fashioned from more than 100 pieces of gold and is so exquisitely crafted that its tiny wheels still turn even though it’s more than 2,300 years old.
Earring with Nike driving a two-horse chariot; Greek, Northern Greek, Late Classical or Early Hellenistic Period, about 350–325 B.C.
The world-class collection is a trove of 150 priceless treasures, including earrings, rings, bracelets, necklaces, pins and wreaths crafted by ancient artisans in precious metals and gemstones. The gallery also showcases more than 100 precious gems from the MFA’s distinguished Greek and Roman collection, considered one of the best in the U.S.
Bracelets with baskets flanked by snakes; Greek or Roman, Late Hellenistic or Early Imperial Period, about 40–20 B.C.
The newly opened Gems and Jewelry of the Ancient Mediterranean gallery was designed to present “miniature works so viewers can appreciate the beauty and fine detail,” Phoebe Segal, assistant curator of Greek and Roman art, told The MetroWest Daily News. A sliding magnifying glass allows visitors to enlarge virtually every piece to observe tiny details barely visible to the naked eye.
Clockwise from top left:
Earring; Near Eastern, Iranian, Persian, Achaemenid, 525–330 B.C.
Necklace mounted with solidus of Emperor Valens; Roman, Early Byzantine Period, A.D. 364-378
Wreath of oak leaves and acorns; Greek, Late Classical or Early Hellenistic Period, 4th century B.C.
Finger ring with snakes intertwined around an emerald; Greek, Hellenistic Period, 2nd century B.C.
Among the fascinating items on display are a gold diadem with a Herakles knot from around 200 B.C., a Roman cameo with the head of Medusa carved from onyx and mounted in gold from around A.D. 250, a gold ring engraved with the scene of a deer hunt from around the time of the Peloponnesian War, and a 2,500 year-old earring of gold, turquoise and lapis lazuli bearing the image of a Persian deity.
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