20 masterpieces . 5 cultures . A shared story
A museums-first project to support the education around our ancient cultures
2nd December 2023 – 1st October 2024
Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS), Mumbai
The CSMVS Ancient World Project is a unique international and educational initiative by Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai. It aims to bring great works of art from other cultures to Mumbai, witnesses to a shared human history, in order to deepen and enrich the study of world history in Indian schools and universities.Endorsed by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, the project is organised to coincide with the commemoration of 75 years of Indian Independence. The project’s first presentation, Ancient Sculptures: India Egypt Assyria Greece Rome is a transcontinental endeavour that brings together long-standing partners — the CSMVS, The J. Paul Getty Museum, and The British Museum, and for the first time, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, alongwith museums from India, to showcase magnificent works of art from the ancient world.
This project is part of Getty’s Sharing Collections effort, which aims to promote a truly global understanding of the ancient world.
Yajna Varaha: Boar Incarnation of Vishnu
Sunari, Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh, India; 900–1099 CE
Vidisha District Archaeological Museum, State Department of Archaeology Archives and Museums, Government of Madhya Pradesh, India (1919)
Hapy: God of the Annual Flooding of the Nile
Thebes (modern Karnak), Egypt; 22nd Dynasty; 924–889 BCE
The British Museum (EA8)
Eagle-headed Winged Figure and the Sacred Tree: Panel from the Northwest Palace of Ashurnasirpal II
Kalhu (modern Nimrud), Iraq; 883–859 BCE
CSMVS, Mumbai (F 9)
Greeks fighting Amazons: Frieze from the Tomb of Maussollos
Mausoleum at Halikarnassos, Türkiye; c. 350 BCE
British Museum (GR 1847,0424.5)
Hapy: God of the Annual Flooding of the Nile
Lazio, Rome, Italy; 200–299 CE
The British Museum (1805,0703.132)
The CSMVS Ancient World Project is an educational initiative endorsed by the Ministry of Culture, Govt. of India and organized on the occasion of 75 years of Indian independence. It aims to amplify the learning of history in Indian schools and universities by providing experiences with original works of art as evidences of our shared history.
CSMVS was invited by the Getty to participate in a ground-breaking experiment under the Getty’s Sharing Collections Programme. In a new model of world interaction, CSMVS curators and curators of The British Museum, the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin and the Getty Museum have developed the exhibition Ancient Sculptures: India Egypt Assyria Greece Rome together. It allows Indian audiences to directly engage with original works of art, of outstanding quality, that are not readily available to be seen outside the western world. Indian visitors will experience them through their own perspective of a continued Indian tradition. This interaction has also inspired curators of the lending institutions to interpret their collections as seen from an Indian perspective.
The exhibition themes explore traditions that shaped ancient cultures, many of which continue to dominate aspects of our society today — the role of nature in human lives, the divine form, and ideas & paradigms of beauty. Their experience will be further enriched through immersive gallery walks, a multi-lingual audio-guide, short films featuring experts from different parts of the world explaining ancient works of art, and a robust educational programme.
Objects representing the cultures of ancient Egypt, Assyria, Greece, and Rome, have been loaned from partner museums and CSMVS will has made available its Indian sculpture gallery representing 3000 years of Indian art, with select loans from Indian intuitions, namely, the National Museum, Delhi, the District Museum, Vidisha and the Bihar Museum, Patna, to establish a conversation in the present times. On display for 10 months, it will enable sharing of scholarship and knowledge across several cities and towns in India, through educational and cultural partnerships, by way of CSMVS’s many existing and new initiatives.
Three thousand years ago, India was already in contact with West Asia, and later, with the cultures of Egypt, Greece, and Rome. As trade developed, people across these regions engaged with each other, exchanging commodities, knowledge, skills, and most importantly, ideas.
The exhibition — Ancient Sculptures: India Egypt Assyria Greece Rome — presents outstanding sculptures and aims to explore three themes that were crucial in shaping ancient cultures and are still perceptible in society today — the role of nature in our lives, the divine form, and ideas and paradigms of beauty.
Deities from ancient Egypt that were venerated and kept appeased, lest their wrath be incurred; divine sculptures from Greek and Roman temples and public squares which were an important part of daily life; fragments from wonders of the ancient world; and semi-divine beings from the walls of Assyrian palaces will all be seen alongside manifestations of the sacred from the Indian sculptural tradition.
By presenting sculptures and describing their context, the exhibition will respond to such questions — Were there any connections between India and the ancient Mediterranean? Why were most Greek sculptures depicted in the nude? Why did the Greeks and Romans give so much importance to a trained and perfect body? Was Egyptian philosophy only about death and the afterlife? How were Egyptian gods worshipped? Why did ancient cultures often give animal forms to their sacred sculpture? What were the different ideals of beauty in different ancient cultures? What was the Indian philosophy behind sculpting the divine? How did geography impact the early cultures and shape their beliefs and art?
The objects from the partner museums — National Museum, New Delhi; Bihar Museum, Patna; The District Museum, Vidisha; and British Museum, London; Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Preußischer Kulturbesitz; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; are on display for ten months, enabling a wide and deep educational engagement.
In our strongly interconnected digital world, where geographic and political boundaries are seemingly blurring, the Indian public, a majority of who are under the age of 25, are consuming ideas and histories from the far corners of the world, often forming impressions through popular media, digital images, video content, and text. Through this exhibition, we want publics to see and engage with historic objects of art to gain a deeper understanding of our shared ancient past.