Results 1-4of 4 Reviews
by Liam Hetherington
Manchester, United Kingdom
July 13, 2008
From journal Antique Arles
Ladysmith, British Columbia
December 3, 2004
What I particularly liked was the floor of ancient mosaics that one could see from a circular, encompassing walkway above the work. It was still being reassembled when I was there.
The artifacts in the museum are truly amazing and very educational. It helps remind you that Arles existed long before Vincent Van Gogh came to live there. It shows a richness that was in its culture, and in the arts, before Van Gogh made this area famous.
From journal In the Footsteps of Van Gogh
April 12, 2004
One of the first exhibits you’ll encounter are scale models of the city, beginning with the mud huts of the Bronze Age and developing into the full-blown Roman colony with its standard-issue forum, theater, temples, and arena. Many of the landmarks of ancient Arles are the landmarks of modern-day Arles, so the models make immediate sense to the visitor.
The Roman artifacts are spectacular and interesting even to the casual visitor. Everything here was excavated in Arles. There’s a wide variety of both artsy and everyday items. There are clay amphorae, used to store wine, olive oil, and food, and little glass jars used for cosmetics, as well as jewelry, trinkets, and small everyday gadgets, plus of course a collection of classical sculpture. The largest sculpture in the museum is the statue of Caesar Augustus, dating to the first century, which once stood over the royal gate of the theater. Augustus was emperor when the theater was built. He’s missing part of his nose and has some patches, but the dignity of this long-reigning emperor still radiates from the marble.
There is an impressive collection of 2nd century to 5th century sarcophagi, some of marble and some of limestone. These are stone coffins whose sides are decorated with elaborate sculptures, looking a little like oversized square-cornered bathtubs. Among the more noteworthy of these are the limestone Sarcophagus of the Married Couple, rare because it was built for two people rather than one, with reliefs suggesting that the couple held great affection for each other, and the marble Sarcophagus of the Hunt, decorated with vivid scenes of hunting.
Most interesting of all are the mosaic floors displayed at the back of the museum. Walkways above them permit you to get a good look while protecting the mosaics. The art of the mosaic is largely lost to us today. If you ever made one of those trivets in art class in elementary school using little square tiles, you’ve experienced the basic technique. Mortar is laid down, little tiles are laid out in patterns and pictures, and then the spaces between tiles are filled in with mortar. The ancients were masters of mosaics and used them extensively to decorate floors.
There are two particularly splendid examples of mosaics in the museum. The largest, missing only a few patches, once decorated the triclinium (dining room) floor of a wealthy villa. It depicts Aion holding the wheel of the Zodiac, surrounded by sea nymphs and dolphins. The most impressive, however, is of the Rape of Europa, a woman borne away on a bull, still in pristine condition after two millennia.
From journal The Beating Heart of Historic Arles
July 2, 2001
From journal Two Days in Arles