"Devotion and Decadence" Reviewed in the Wall Street Journal

By Maggie Pavao
11/02/2018

In the article published in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday, October 31, Melik Kaylan provided a glowing review of ISAW's latest exhibition "Devotion and Decadence: The Berthouville Treasure and Roman Luxury from the Bibliothèque nationale de France." Kaylan traces the history of the Berthouville Treasure on view in our first gallery, describing its origin as the "peerless 90-piece cache unearthed by a plowing farmer in 1830 near the village of Berthouville in Normandy" and the battle for ownership of the Treasure between the Louvre and the Bibliothèque nationale. The Treasure was conserved and exhibited by the Getty in 2011 and 2014 respectively. According to Kaylan, the star of the show is a nude statuette of Mercury in pure silver, one of the largest of its kind. "Mercury, here, is fashioned mainly by silversmithing techniques of repoussé, the details delicately punched out from within. He embodies cold perfection... But the real fun begins in the displays behind him of ornately picturesque drinking cups, bowls and pitchers in three pairs. These objects alone are an entire treasure, exalting and unforgettable."

The second gallery features "equally dazzling and poignant—luxury objects from the Roman era that illustrate the exquisite craftsmanship of the time." Many objects in this gallery are from the Cabinet des médailles at the Bibliothèque nationale de France which "inhabited French royal collections until the Bibliothèque got them in the Revolution. Roman imperial cameos set into royal mounts with inscriptions amended during the Revolution tell many tales." 

Overall, Kaylan asserts that the objects in the exhibition "are priceless cornerstones of our collective memory, and age has not dimmed their power."