The Legacy of Palmyra

An on­line ex­hi­bi­tion pre­sented by the Getty Foun­da­tion Available from: Fe­bru­ary 2017

Timeless Travels Magazine - - EXHIBITION NEWS - Visit:­search/ex­hi­bi­tion­s_events/ ex­hi­bi­tions/palmyra/

Once a famed cen­tre of trade and meet­ing place of civ­i­liza­tions, Palmyra and its mag­nif­i­cent ru­ins have be­come tar­gets in the on­go­ing Syr­ian con­flict that vic­timises its peo­ple and erases its cul­tural her­itage. Launched in Fe­bru­ary 2017, the on­line ex­hi­bi­tion The Legacy of An­cient Palmyra de­picts the site as it was il­lus­trated in the eigh­teenth cen­tury by the ar­chi­tect Louis-François Cas­sas and pho­tographed for the first time by Louis Vignes in 1864.

“For cen­turies, trav­el­ling artists and ex­plor­ers have doc­u­mented the ru­ins of Palmyra in var­i­ous states of preser­va­tion. And in mod­ern times ar­chae­ol­o­gists and art his­to­ri­ans have de­voted them­selves to un­rav­el­ling and pre­serv­ing Palmyra’s cap­ti­vat­ing, unique his­tory and cul­tural sig­nif­i­cance, now un­der the shadow of un­speak­able hu­man suf­fer­ing,” said Thomas W. Gae­ht­gens, di­rec­tor of the Getty Re­search In­sti­tute. “With The Legacy of An­cient Palmyra, the Getty Re­search In­sti­tute’s first on­line ex­hi­bi­tion, we are hon­oured to present this vis­ual record, much of it from the Getty Re­search In­sti­tute’s col­lec­tions.”

Stretch­ing about three kilo­me­tres across the Tad­murean desert, the ru­ins of Palmyra are strik­ing mark­ers of the city’s place in his­tory. Start­ing in the late-sev­en­teenth cen­tury, Western ex­plor­ers en­coun­tered these ru­ins and trans­mit­ted knowl­edge about the site such as through the draw­ings of Cas­sas and the pho­to­graphs of Vignes. Knowl­edge about Palmyra and its ru­ins per­me­ated Euro­pean so­ci­ety, be­com­ing the sub­ject of poetry and paint­ing, in ad­di­tion to in­flu­enc­ing el­e­gant Neo­clas­si­cal de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture.

The on­line ex­hi­bi­tion draws heav­ily from the Getty Re­search In­sti­tute’s col­lec­tions as well as art in mu­seum and li­brary col­lec­tions all over the world. The ex­hi­bi­tion ex­plores the site’s early his­tory, the far-reach­ing in­flu­ence of Palmyra in Western art and cul­ture, and the loss, now tremen­dous and ir­rev­o­ca­ble, of the ru­ins that for cen­turies stood as a mon­u­ment to a great city and her peo­ple.

For any­one in­ter­ested in the site of Palmyra this is a won­der­ful re­source. Its in­ter­ac­tive maps with cor­re­spond­ing pho­tos and draw­ings by Cas­sas and Vignes re­ally help to bring one of the most cos­mopoli­tan cen­tres in an­tiq­uity to life.

Above: View of the Ru­ins

of Palmyra, G. Hof­st­ede van Es­sen, 1693. Oil on can­vas. Al­lard Pier­son Mu­seum, Univer­sity of Am­s­ter­dam, Cour­tesy of the Univer­sity of Am­s­ter­dam

Left, from top: Mon­u­men­tal Arch, Louis Vignes, 1864. Al­bu­men print. The Getty Re­search In­sti­tute

Fu­ner­ary bust with in­scrip­tion, ‘Maqî son of M’anî,’ Palmyrene, anony­mous maker, c. 200 AD. Lime­stone. The J. Paul Getty Mu­seum at the Getty Villa

Self-por­trait, Louis Vignes, 1859. Al­bu­men print. The Getty Re­search In­sti­tute

Mon­u­men­tal Arch, Des­maisons and Pierre Gabriel Berthault af­ter Louis-François Cas­sas. Etch­ing.

From Voy­age pit­toresque de la Syrie, de la Phoéni­cie, de la Pales­tine, et de la Basse Egypte (Paris, ca. 1799), vol. 1, pl. 71. The Getty Re­search In­sti­tute

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