The Legacy of Palmyra
An online exhibition presented by the Getty Foundation Available from: February 2017
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