When you leave the Egyptian artifacts behind to enter Gallery 10, there’s a change of flooring and presentation which makes the transition from Ancient Egypt to Greece and Rome clearer.
It’s not just in the style of the surrounds, but the items themselves – there’s a noticeable jump in artistic quality in the first Greek statues you meet.
Someone has put a lot of thought into how items are displayed in this collection (see the highlights below). However, with surprisingly little English information for such wonderful displays, you will need your guidebook or an audio guide to really appreciate what you’re seeing.
So what raised my eyebrows in this collection?
- Gallery 11 features a huge original mosaic in the floor, taken from a 4th century villa near Salzburg.
It tells one of the versions of the story of Ariadne and Theseus (he of Minotaur-slaying fame).
- Gallery 13 has a delightful display of busts, each on its own high column.
The room has an eerie quality enhanced by the subtle and varied lighting and shadows cast on the marbled floor. Look also for the “mummy portraits”, which they placed on mummies in Rome-influenced Egypt in the second century AD.
- Gallery 14 features Greek vases and other ceramics. The kind of thing you’ll be familiar with from souvenir shops in Athens and Kos, except these are the real things.
The “Kabinetts” leading off the rooms each focus on a special topic, such as Cypriot ceramics from the bronze and iron ages or Etruscan art – you’ll also find more vases than you can shake a souvlaki at.
- Gallery 15 is another where the display is magical – this time featuring bronze statues of the gods and other figures of mythology.
A lot of praise is due the designers of the Antiquities exhibits – the dark settings with pools of light for each piece make a dramatic impression. Just a shame about the lack of English.
Elsewhere in the room are Roman tableware, jewellery, decorated oil lamps and fibulae (brooches for fastening clothing).
- Gallery 16 is probably my favourite with its miniature reliefs (cameos) and engraved gems from Rome.
These were used for signet rings, pendants and other adornments.
Again, the room is lit darkly, with wall cabinets and spotlights. At a distance, the gem cabinets look like a collection of brightly-coloured beetles. As you walk past, watch how certain gems catch the light – particularly the orange carnelians.
The room also features the Gemma Augustea, a large cut onyx stone honouring the Emperor Augustus.
- Gallery 17 is another profiting from the creativity of the museum staff. Spotlit cabinets harbour a wide range of Roman and early Germanic jewellery and other items of bronze, silver and gold.
These come from various finds, such as the “Treasure of Nagyszentmiklós” (in modern-day Romania) or the Byzantine silver from Zalesie (modern-day Poland).
Exiting the antiquities section brings you out to Gallery 19 of the Kunstkammer.