Ancient Art

Mummy by the Bay: Irethorrou, an Egyptian Priest of the Early Persian Period

This Halloween, we take you inside one of the Museums’ most enigmatic inhabitants: the mummy Irethorrou. While mummies have long been the antagonists of numerous horror films, they also provide us with incredible insight into the funerary practices and religious beliefs of ancient Egyptians. We dare you to read on as curator Dr. Renée Dreyfus and Egyptologist Jonathan P. Elias unwrap the Museums’ mummy.

Mummy of Irethorrou in Coffin

Mummy of Irethorrou in Coffin, ca. 500 BC. Egypt, Akhmim, Middle Egypt. Human remains, linen, wood with polychrome. Gift of the First Federal Trust Company (from the Estate of Jeremiah Lynch). 42895

Weird Sports: Olympic Oddities from the Ancient World

The Olympic canoe sprint, an event that starts on August 6, looks pretty weird when you think about it: human beings wrapped in brightly colored fabrics, sitting in little plastic shells, racing on a simulated river. It would have looked even weirder to the ancient Greeks. The first Olympic event was actually pretty simple, the stadion: a foot race of exactly one stade, which was a length of about 180 meters. It was run naked, it was over in less than a minute, and nobody capsized. The ancient Olympics did include some pretty weird sports however, and Gifts From the Gods: Art and the Olympic Ideal, currently on view at the Legion of Honor, exhibits several ancient coins depicting some of the oddest ones. 

coin with man and torch

Jockey galloping right, holding torch (obverse), silver didrachm, ca. 280-272 BC, Tarentum, Calabria. Anonymous Loan

The Art of the Photo Finish

As millions watch the Summer Olympics opening ceremony this Friday, July 27, the best athletes in the world will officially open the Games of the XXX Olympiad. The next day, Saturday, July 28, Gifts from the Gods: Art and the Olympic Ideal opens at the Legion of Honor. Like the opening ceremony, and the Games themselves, this exhibition celebrates athletic

Outlasting Eternity: A Reflection on the Figures of Stephen De Staebler

Guest-blogger Tim Svenonius is the interpretive media producer at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and an artist in his own right. Here he shares his insights and reflections after seeing Matter + Spirit: The Sculpture of Stephen De Staebler on view at the de Young through May 13.

Three Figures

From left to right: Man with Broad Chest, 2010. Bronze with patina. Courtesy of Dolby Chadwick Gallery, San Francisco; Winged Woman Walking I, 1987. Bronze with patina. Courtesy of Dolby Chadwick Gallery, San Francisco; Winged Figure with Three Legs, 2003. Collection of Peter and Beverly Lipman, Portola Valley, California.

FRAME|WORK: A Relief of a Gift Bearer from Ancient Persia

FRAME|WORK is a weekly blog series that highlights an artwork in the Museums' permanent collections. This week, we feature an exquisite bas-relief of a gift bearer from ancient Persia, currently on view in the Hall of Antiquities at the Legion of Honor.

2008.1

Relief of a Gift Bearer, Persian, Achaemenid Empire, Persepolis, Palace of Darius or Xerxes, ca. 490–470 B.C. Limestone. Museum purchase, gift of Lisa Sardegna, Albert P. Wagner Bequest Fund, William A. Stimson, Friends of Ian White Endowment Income Fund, Unrestricted Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, Volunteer Council Art Acquisition Fund, Ancient Art Trust Fund and Auction Proceeds, Mrs. John N. Rosekrans, Jr., Sande Schlumberger, Endowment Fund in Honor of Francesca and Thomas Carr Howe, Walter H. and Phyllis J. Shorenstein Foundation Fund, Tish and James Brown and various Tribute Funds. 2008.1

FRAME|WORK: A Statue of Asklepios from Hellenistic Greece

The subject of quality health care has dominated political rhetoric for decades, but the issue has been of interest for centuries. This week’s FRAME | WORK examines one of the earliest manifestations of the power of medicine in the form of the Statue of Asklepios currently on view in the Hall of Antiquities at the Legion of Honor.

Ancient Art Teachers Institute at the Legion of Honor

The Fine Arts Museums’ collection of antiquities has played a central role in the development of both the de Young and the Legion of Honor. This summer, we offered a teacher institute for sixth grade teachers to enrich their schools by using our ancient art collections in their curricula. This program, presented in partnership with the UC Berkeley History–Social Studies Project (UCBH-SSP), gave teachers the tools to teach students how to think like historians.

The Lod Mosaic as Muse for Berkeley High School Seniors!

Last week, the Legion of Honor received a special visit from Berkeley High School’s Latin class. This group of thirty-seven seniors took time out of the final, hectic days of high school to see Marvelous Menagerie: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel, which has served as their muse for the past several weeks.

Marvelous Menagerie Unmasked

In 1996 construction workers accidentally uncovered a mosaic while widening a road in the modern Israeli town of Lod, near Tel Aviv. A preliminary excavation immediately conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) revealed that three feet below the modern surface there was a mosaic floor dating to about AD 300. The three most complete and impressive panels from the floor are on view at the Legion of Honor through July 24.

Mosaic floor central panel, Roman, ca. AD 300. Excavated at Lod (Lydda), Israel. Stone tesserae. Israel Antiquities Authority and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center. Image courtesy of the Israel Antiquities Authority

Jacques Neguer discusses the conservation of the Lod Mosaic

Conservators Jacques Neguer and Ghaleb Abu Diab of the Israel Antiquities Authority are visiting from Israel to oversee the conservation and installation of the Lod Mosaic at the Legion of Honor. The mosaic was discovered below the streets of the city of Lod in Israel and arrived to the U.S. in seven panels. This mosaic floor is the centerpiece of the exhibition Marvelous Menagerie: A Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel, which opens this Saturday, April 23 at the Legion of Honor.

FAM acting head objects conservator Lesley Bone sat down with her two colleagues to discuss the discovery of the mosaic and the conservation treatments they conducted. It is a fascinating conversation that reveals the behind-the-scenes science that goes into an object before it is placed on view and provides a rare glimpse into the way conservators think and talk about works of art.

Jacques Negeur and Lesley Bone

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