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Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections

October 6, 2013 – March 2, 2014
West Building, Main Floor, Northeast Galleries

Icon of the archangel Michael (detail), first half 14th century, egg tempera and gold on wood. Athens, Byzantine and Christian Museum, Gift of a Greek of Istanbul, 1958

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

In 330 Emperor Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Italy some thousand miles to the east, near the site of the ancient Greek city of Byzantium on the Bosphorus Strait linking the Aegean and Black Seas. Renamed Constantinople (now Istanbul), the city became the largest and wealthiest in the Christian world. It remained the dominant power, especially in the eastern Mediterranean, for more than 1,000 years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. In the first-ever exhibition of Byzantine art at the Gallery, some 170 works of art, many never before lent to the United States, will be on view—among them mosaics, icons, manuscripts, jewelry, and ceramics. The works include newly discovered and unpublished objects and reveal the rich and multifaceted culture of Byzantium. Divided into five thematic sections, the exhibition explores the coexistence of paganism and Christianity, spiritual life in Byzantium, secular works of art used in the home, the intellectual life of Byzantine scholars, and the cross-influences that occurred between Byzantine and Western artists before the fall of Byzantium.

Organization: The exhibition was organized by the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, Athens, with the collaboration of the Benaki Museum, Athens, and in association with the National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

Sponsors: The exhibition’s international tour is made possible by major funding from OPAP S.A.

Financial support is also provided by the A.G. Leventis Foundation.

The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Catalog: Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections. Vols. 1-2. Edited by Anastasia Drandaki et al. Athens: Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports, 2013.

Other Venues: J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, April 9–August 25, 2014
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, September 27, 2014–May 10, 2015