We are delighted to tell you that the Lod Mosaic, a spectacular Roman period mosaic of exceptional quality and in excellent state of preservation, considered by many to be the most beautiful ever discovered in Israel, will be on exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC from September 28th – April 3, 2011. The Lod Mosaic will be on loan to the Met from the Israel Antiquities Authority, the pre-eminent organization in the fields of Israeli and Biblical Archaeology, custodian of 2 million objects including 15,000 Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center.
After its presentation at the Met, the Lod Mosaic will be exhibited at the Legion of Honor Museum (San Francisco), at The Field Museum (Chicago), and at the Columbus Museum of Art (Columbus, Ohio).
In 1996, workmen widening the Jerusalem–Tel Aviv road in Lod made a startling discovery: signs of a Roman mosaic pavement were found about three feet below the modern ground surface. A rescue excavation was conducted immediately by the Israel Antiquities Authority, revealing a mosaic floor that measures approximately 50 feet long by 27 feet wide. The mosaic, comprising seven panels, is symmetrically divided into two large "carpets" by a long rectangular horizontal panel, and the entire work is surrounded by a ground of plain white. To preserve the mosaic, it was reburied until funding was secured last year for its full scientific excavation, conservation and the establishment of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Lod Mosaic Center. Recently removed from the ground, the three most complete and impressive panels will be exhibited to the general public for the first time at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The pavement is believed to come from the home of a wealthy Roman living in the Eastern Roman Empire in around A.D. 300. Because the mosaic's imagery has no overt religious content, it cannot be determined whether the owner was a pagan, a Jew, or a Christian.
The exhibition – The Roman Mosaic from Lod, Israel will highlight the three large panels found in what was probably a large audience room. Within the central panel—which measures 13 feet square—is a series of smaller squares and triangles depicting various birds, fish, and animals that surround a larger octagonal scene with ferocious wild animals—a lion and lioness, an elephant, a giraffe, a rhinoceros, a tiger, and a bull. Such animals were well known to the Romans since they appeared at gladiatorial games, where they were pitted either against each other or against human adversaries. The mosaic may therefore represent the largesse that the owner had conferred by staging games with wild animal hunts. Flanking the central panel to the north and south are two smaller, rectangular end panels. The north panel explores the same theme as the main panel with various creatures; the south panel is devoted to a single marine scene, complete with two Roman merchant ships. A striking feature of all the mosaics is that none of them contains any human figures. The exhibition will also relate the history of the discovery and the story of the mosaic's removal, conservation, and eventual journey to New York.
The exhibition at the Met is made possible by Diane Carol Brandt in memory of Ruth and Benjamin Brandt. Additional support is provided by Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman and The David Berg Foundation.
Lod is located near Tel Aviv, and the site was initially settled in the Fifth millennium BCE. Its name appears in the written record as early as 1465 BCE—in a list of towns in Canaan that was compiled during the reign of the pharaoh Thutmose III—and also in the Old and New Testaments. In the first century CE, the inhabitants of Lod were sold into slavery and subsequently the town was razed. A Roman city was established there in CE 200, and at that time most of its inhabitants were Christian.
On Saturday, October 2nd at 10:30 AM at the NYU Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, there will be a roundtable discussion focusing on artistic and conservation issues relating to the Lod Mosaic.
On Sunday, October 3rd at 3 PM at the Met Museum, our annual lecture series The Helen Diller Family Sunday at the Met will feature the following lectures:
The Lod Mosaic: From Excavation to Exhibition
Jacques Neguer, IAA Director of Art Conservation
The Lod Mosaic Floor and Its Menagerie: Roman Influence on Local Mosaic Art
Miriam Avissar, Senior Archaeologist, Israel Antiquities Authority
A variety of education programs will complement the exhibition. These include gallery talks by exhibition curator Dr. Christopher Lightfoot, a hands-on workshop for teens and family programs. We hope you will have an opportunity to visit the exhibition and join us for some of the programs.
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