Ancient gold and silversmiths, metal workers and stone masons, glass sculptors and potters created works of art of timeless beauty and perfect craftsmanship. Many of their works were in no way inferior to the works created in large format by sculptors, panel painters and mosaic artists. But almost always the artists remain for us anonymous. They rarely signed their works.
Even though the value of the material was arguably the decisive factor in determining the purchase price, whereas labour was comparatively cheap, many of these works were highly regarded. With valuable jewellery and richly ornamented tableware or magnificent weapons the owner aspired to impress his social environment and differentiate himself from the rest.
Such prestigious articles of luxury could be awarded by rulers to worthy subjects. Similarly they were suitable to be used as valuable offerings for a deity. The Greeks attributed the greatest works of art to Hephaestus, the god of blacksmiths. He is said to have fashioned them for the rest of the Olympian gods. The ugly god created the most beautiful things. That is why craftsmen and artists worshipped him as their patron.
The State Collections of Antiquities own one of the most outstanding collections of antique minor arts in the world. Our exhibition "In the Splendour of Hephaestus" testifies to the imagination and the breath-taking virtuosity of antique artists.
A catalogue (German/English) is being published for the exhibition.