The ancient city of Palmyra (“Place of Palms”), well situated in an oasis in the Syrian desert, flourished between the first and third centuries AD. At the crossroads of trade routes between the Roman and Parthian Persian empires, the people of Palmyra embellished their tombs with distinctive funerary portraits that illuminate the rich cultural exchanges and interactions taking place throughout the eastern Mediterranean and Near East.
Palmyra: Loss and Remembrance, on display as a long-term loan at the Getty Villa, presents a selection of the finest surviving Palmyran funerary portrait sculptures from the unrivaled collection of the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. The exhibition will also include historical engravings and photographs from the Getty Research Institute that represent the earliest photographic record of this unique archaeological site.
As part of the re-installation of the antiquities collection at the Getty Villa, this exhibition will be the first display in a new gallery dedicated to “The Classical World in Context,” which will present long-term loans of objects from cultures that engaged and interacted with the ancient classical cultures of Greece and Italy.
Another highlight of the exhibition is a double relief of a father and son, which was broken in half and sold separately sometime before 1880, and will be reunited in the exhibition for the first time. In 1880, Leland Stanford Jr. purchased one half in Rome. Today, it is in the collection of the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University. In 1929, the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek acquired the other half from a collector in Beirut. In 2012, former Getty scholar Fred Albertson recognized that part of the younger man’s shoulder, as well as the branch that supports the dorsalium (funerary curtain) behind him, is preserved on the slab depicting the older man. The similar carving of the faces, drapery, and inscriptions confirmed that the two pieces belong together.
(Photo: The Beauty of Palmyra, c. 190–210. Palmyran. Limestone. Courtesy Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen)