It is the 3rd century AD and the Roman Empire extends across vast areas of Europe. In these occupied regions, for better or for worse, the Romans spread their culture. This also includes a decadent proclivity for celebration and excess.
From 14th March 2018 visitors to the Glyptotek can give their imagination free rein as regards celebration and excess at the exhibition ”High on Luxury. Lost Treasures from the Roman Empire”. Here we shall be presenting the Berthouville Treasure along with a number of other luxury artifacts from the Roman Empire.
To create the perfect Imperial Roman atmosphere in the exhibition, one can, while moving around between the ancient goblets, jugs and dishes, listen to podcast magazine Third Ear’s soundtrack, which takes the visitors back 2000 years to a feast at the home of the nouveau riche Trimalchio, which offers all one could desire of Roman decadence and ferocity.
Assuming one were fortunate enough to gain admission to a celebration with the Roman upper class the menu might stretch to such specialties as flamingo tongues, peahen eggs and dormice sprinkled with honey. And everything accompanied by an endless supply of wine. Everything was served from jugs and goblets decorated with dramatic scenes from Greek mythology. The exquisite silverware, and, not least, the motifs with which it was decorated, played a key role in conversation at such gatherings. By displaying one’s knowledge of the myths behind the scenes depicted it was possible to demonstrate one’s cultural sophistication and intellectual prowess – or appear a complete fool through one’s lack of such knowledge.
However, the Roman Empire is not all orgies and excess – there is also war and violence, and at this point in the 3rd century things are getting out of hand in Roman-occupied Gaul (today’s France). The barbarians tirelessly attack the Romans. In order to protect their valuables the Roman priests of the Temple of Mercury hide all their beautiful silver under the tiled pavement in the temple precinct. The treasure is forgotten and it is only in 1830 that the silver resurfaces when a somewhat surprised farmer from the French village of Berthouville literally runs into it while ploughing his field.
The treasure is now the property of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, which, for four years working jointly with The J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, has cleaned and restored the objects so they can be exhibited in all their glory.
At the Glyptotek the treasure will be shown in the Bissen Room, which brewing magnate Carl Jacobsen, the museum’s founder, had decorated with antique motifs interpreted and given shape by sculptor Herman Wilhelm Bissen. Despite not being an exact parallel to the elegantly adorned dining rooms of the Roman elite, it still brings us closer to the treasure’s original use, when the beautifully executed motifs from the silver items are echoed on the ceilings and walls of the exhibition room.
Together with the unique silver treasure from Berthouville the exhibition also presents a treasure chamber filled with luxury items of gold and precious stones, all of which have also been kindly lent by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, which bear witness to the Roman penchant for luxury and to the superb craftsman ship of their artisans, which can still enchant and impress even the most skilled goldsmiths today. The Berthouville Treasure itself consists of some 90 objects of silver which, taken together have a total weight of about 25 kg. And these are drinking vessels, dishes and statues which were all used by the Romans and direct our thoughts back to the enriching and intoxicating feasts of the Roman Empire.
Fancy going on a treasure hunt with Mercury? In the special exhibition High on Luxury – Lost Treasures from the Roman Empire, you will find treasures on statues, on the silverware and on the Glyptotek’s ceiling! When you’ve found the pieces of treasure, you can decorate your own silver party cup – in almost the same way as the Romans made their party cups 2,000 years ago.
For children between 5 and 11 years old, if possible with their families. Get your treasure map from the Museum Shop – it costs only 10 Danish Kroner.