Classical Cyprus in Graz

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of presenting at the Classical Cyprus conference (21-23rd September) organised by the University of Graz. I thoroughly enjoyed researching my paper over the summer, focusing on objects from the Kent Collection in Harrogate and tracing their itineraries, and pulling together a number of threads that I’ve been following for a while. My research led me to the Paul Mellon Centre, to the National Art Library at the V&A, and back to the Mercer Art Gallery to ascertain with an unbent paperclip that the miniature oenochoe on the jug below could function as a spout. I’ve had so much help from the professionals at all these institutions and more – one of the most rewarding things about my research is the generosity of others in helping me take it forward.

Jug

Jug with female figurine holding oeneochoe on the shoulder © Mercer Art Gallery

But onwards to Graz. I’ve never been before, but certainly would visit again, not least for the amazing Schlossberg with views out over the city. The eye-catching building in the middle-left is the Modern Art gallery, which sadly I didn’t get to see – but if its contents match its exterior, it must be well worth a visit.

View over Graz

View over Graz

The conference itself was held in the beautiful setting of the Meerscheinschlӧssl, a historic building belonging to the University, complete with allegorical ceiling paintings.

Ceiling s

Ceiling of the central hall, Meerscheinschlӧssl

We were also treated to a reception in the Institute for Archaeology’s gallery at the University to mark the launch of the new publication Antikes Zypern. Kulturen im Dialog.

Gallery

Gabriele Koiner introducing Antikes Zypern. Kulturen im Dialog

The conference papers were many and varied – it was an excellent, intensive programme, examining Classical Cyprus from a wide range of angles and approaches. Highlights for me included Pauline Maillard’s paper on reuniting the the corpus of figurines from ‘Le sanctuaire féminin des Salines de Kition’; Viola Lewandowski on ‘Attische Keramik aus Marion in Berlin’; Anja Ulbrich on ‘Adoption and adaptation of Greek iconography in Cypriot votive sculpture of the Classical period’; Olympia Bobou’s fascinating discussion of a ‘temple girl‘ from the Fitzwilliam Museum; and Stuart Dunn on the Heritage Gazetteer of Cyprus. All the papers were hugely interesting, and I look forward to revisiting them in more detail when the edited volume arising from the conference is published.

Group photo (c) Uni Graz slash Leljak

Conference participants on the first day. © Uni Graz/Leljak

I also managed to fit in a quick visit to the Archaeology Museum at Schloss Eggenberg, and was so glad that I did. It’s a very modern building, largely underground, in the setting of the formal gardens surrounding the 17th century palace of Schloss Eggenberg, creating a sharp juxtaposition of periods which is intensified by the ancient objects it displays. I was pleased to see in person the two limestone heads discussed in Gabriele Koiner’s conference paper.

Limestone heads s

Limestone heads © Graz Archaeology Museum

I was also intrigued by this display of limestone votive figurines. Their arrangement in the case helps to bring out the way they might have been crowded together in a sanctuary, but also makes it more difficult to appreciate them as individual objects.

Votive figurines s

Limestone votive figurines © Graz Archaeology Museum

The museum space is modern and austere, in complete contrast with the approach taken at the Vienna Kunsthistoriches Museum, for example. Questions implicitly posed by the objects on display are written large on the walls, including:

Hat Kult mehr mit der Liebe zu tun oder mit dem Tod?

Tragen wir Schmuck, um begehrt zu werden?

Seit wann essen wir nicht aus Hunger, sondern aus Genuss?

Brauchen wir Götter?

This was a really interesting way of bringing out these issues for the visitor, and allowing scope for a broad interpretation of the significance of the objects. As an example of the presentation of an ancient Cypriot collection, I found it striking and effective, and it gave me plenty to think about.

The best conferences send me back to my teaching and research refreshed, re-energised, and with many new questions to answer and avenues to explore, and this was certainly the case with Graz. I’m very grateful to the organisers for putting together such a fascinating and successful conference, and of course to WRoCAH for funding my attendance. My next step is to turn my paper into a finished product for publication, which will definitely keep me busy – I suspect the February deadline will come round surprisingly quickly!

 

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