The newest Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art luxury exhibit, Treasures of the Roman Empire, opened its doors July 9 to offer an interesting and fresh summer activity. It shows the extraordinary artistic achievements of the Romans and portrays the complex social life of their Empire.
When I first entered into the dimly lit exhibit, it felt as if I had just stumbled upon El Dorado. Gold jewelry studded with various gems, gold ingots and shimmering coins filled the exhibit – and that was just the beginning.
As I moved through the exhibit, the gold section and the silver section were separated by an enormous sculpture made of 100,000 tiny stones arranged to create a mosaic painting of the Greek god Narcissus. I audibly said “oh my God” when I first saw this masterpiece; saying this was my favorite piece in the exhibit is an understatement. The silver section consisted of meticulously decorated goblets and beautiful tableware. Some of these artifacts were created 2,000 years ago; their durability a testimony of artists’ skill.
The silver section was a step down from gold. However it still kept my interest as I strolled around each glass case. It felt like I was dropped into the fantasy land of Game of Thrones drinking wine out of intricate goblets and eating off silver platters with the cast.
The final section was made up of the Berthouville Treasure, a collection of priceless silver artifacts accidently discovered by a French farmer in 1830. This was the largest section of the whole exhibit, full of silver utensils, tableware and gifts for the gods. Even though this was the largest section, quantity doesn’t always mean quality. Most of these artifacts, although priceless, seemed like plain silver bowls, pitchers and other small silver items. It may seem naive of me to call these priceless treasures boring, however it really was a disappointment going from solid gold ingots to dented and scratched silver bowls.
Along with the artifacts in the glass displays, there were plaques on the wall offering insight into the Roman culture which were sprinkled throughout the exhibit. There was also a captivating interactive where you could face swap your face onto the faces of some of the sculptures. I may or may not have spent way too much time doing that, ignoring the children and weird stares from their parents in line behind me.
Spread throughout the exhibit were impressive sculptures made of marble, both large and small. As well as some that looked as if someone had just chipped out perfectly detailed soldiers or nobility on a large slab of marble pinned to the wall. These were the perfect artifacts to disrupt the constant flow of gold and silver.
Overall, this exhibit was an amazing way to spend an afternoon and well worth the $6 I paid after showing my student ID. It was a time machine back to when gold, silver and gems really showed someone’s wealth and power, as well as a nice history lesson on the Roman culture. This display adds an extra aspect to an already great art museum. The exhibit ends Oct. 2, and is well worth a trip for anyone willing to learn about an empire through art.