Fall Exhibition Opens October 17th!

By Rachel Herschman

The ISAW Exhibitions Department is currently getting ready for its upcoming fall exhibition, Devotion and Decadence: The Berthouville Treasure and Roman Luxury, opening on October 17, 2018.

Discovered by chance by a farmer in rural Normandy while plowing his field, the Berthouville Treasure is the largest and best-preserved hoard of silver from the ancient world. Silver statuettes and vessels—about ninety pieces weighing over fifty pounds in total—had been buried in a brick-lined cist during antiquity. Located in an area of ancient pilgrimage, assembly, and spectacle, the site was a Gallo-Roman religious sanctuary devoted to Mercury Canetonensis. The temple treasure includes extraordinary representations of Mercury as well as other pieces illustrating vivid episodes from the Trojan War and theatrical Bacchic scenes. The collection offers a striking example of the cross-cultural interactions between Roman and indigenous Gallic culture.

Statuette of Mercury
Roman, 175–225 CE
Berthouville, France
Silver and gold
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris: Inv. 56.1
Photo: Tahnee Cracchiola © Getty-BnF

For its presentation at ISAW, the Berthouville Treasure will be joined by approximately seventy-five other luxury objects from the collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France including silver platters, cameos, gems, coins, and jewelry. Such prestige objects were not only used as votive offerings to the gods, but also functioned in daily life as signs of their owner’s wealth, power, and refinement. Devotion and Decadence: The Berthouville Treasure and Roman Luxury provides an exceptional opportunity to explore the significance of Roman luxury arts and its role in different devotional and cultural settings.


Cameo of Jupiter (The Cameo of Chartres) Set in Fourteenth-Century Mount
Roman, ca. 50 CE
Rome, mounted in Paris
Sardonyx; gold and enamel mount
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris: Camée.1
Photo © Bnf