The new exhibition of the ‘Islands of the Gods’ at the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden uses a mixture of photography and archaeology to explore the myths of the ancient Greek islands. TheHagueOnLine's Anna McGrail takes us through this fascinating exhibition.
The central element of the exhibit is the striking aerial photography of the professed sites of the myths by the renowned Georg Gerster, a professional aerial photographer of fifty years. Not only are these images of value archaeologically, as aerial photography has long been employed in discovering sites of interest that are not visible from the ground, but they are also stunning pieces of art.
The scene of Rhodes bay with its sprawl of modern city scape profoundly juxtaposes the image of the mighty and ancient Athenian Acropolis; but each has its own beauty.
It is the archaeology, however, that brings to life the myths of the islands. As an ancient historian the Corinthian helmet was the most evocative artefact for me. It brought to mind the heroes of the Trojan War, the helmets of Achilles and Hector clashing in furious battle in the wake of Patroclus’ death, fated by his use of Achilles’ own armour. The vase depicting a strident Athena, glorying in martial prowess perfectly befits the portrait of the Athenian Acropolis hanging just behind. Another vase illustrates the epic fight between Theseus and the Minotaur in the labyrinth of Knossos on Crete. As so often Greek myths interlink, and in this case Theseus abandoned princess Ariadne, who aided him in his escape, on the island of Lemnos, where she was rescued by Dionysus, of whom there is a statuette depicting him half-drunk and supported by a satyr.
There are a myriad more myths and locations waiting to be discovered at the ‘Islands of the Gods’ exhibit and I suggest that you take a visit. However be sure to ask for the English information at the reception as it is entirely accompanied in Dutch.
Islands of the Gods exhibition, Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden 18 April / m 2 September 2012