ATHENS – With beauty trends, what’s going on happens – and it can take 2,500 years to come full circle.
It is among the takeaways of “Kallos: The Ultimate Beauty, “an exhibition examining the ancient Greek veneration of” kallos “- or external and internal beauty – which opens at the Cycladic Museum Art in Athens on September 29. L’Oréal is the sponsor.
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Today, inner beauty and well-being once again play an increasingly vital role in the beauty industry, which expands its scope of messages, products and categories as consumers demand more vision. holistic and inclusive of beauty.
“The exhibition comes at the right time, because humanity is now rediscovering this concept which may have been a little lost for a while,” explained Jean-Paul Agon, president of L’Oréal, during a recent interview at Museum. “It was invented by the Greeks, which is why I was very seduced by the idea of this exhibition from the start – because of the Kallos concept.
The executive, who was appointed general manager of L’Oréal’s operations in Greece at the age of 24, has a long-standing adoration for the country.
“Inner value is absolutely essential for L’Oréal,” he continued. “So essential, that we define L’Oréal with the famous phrase: ‘Because you are worth it.’ But today is a new era of beauty, where people think beauty is not just what you see.
On the contrary, the modern view of beauty is multi-layered and multi-faceted. When we speak of a ‘beautiful person’, “it means that she has ‘kallos’ – a soul that is beautiful,” said Sandra Marinopoulou, President and CEO of the Museum of the Cyclades. Art.
The vast Kallos show in the jewel museum founded by his aunt brings together 322 antiques – such as statues, terracotta, jewelry and perfume bottles – from Greece, the Italian peninsula and the Vatican, 280 of which never have been shown publicly before. The exhibition, which weaves philosophical ideas, focuses mainly on the 7th century to the 1st century BCE, with an emphasis on the 6th, 5th and 4th centuries.
“It’s when the logos started, and the logos is that logic with feeling and with science, when mythology begins to live,” said Nicholas Chr. Stampolidis, the outgoing director of the museum, who will become the general director of the Acropolis museum, in an interview. “The logos prevail, they are the pre-Socratic philosophers, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the others.”
The show, designed by executives from the museum and L’Oréal, is not structured chronologically, but rather organized transversely into two main sections: Embellishment and Beauty.
“It’s like a laboratory, a proposition. It is not scientific research over time. It’s seen in a different intellectual way, and not in a chronological, historical way, ”said Marinopoulou.
The show opens with a marble Kallimachos statue of a dancing Laconian girl, with her cloak puffed up behind her and worked so finely that light shines through, dating from between 420 and 415 BCE.
“We tried to get from all the museums in mainland and island Greece – or island Greece – the best of the best pieces, in order to understand that the notion of beauty was not an Athenian concept, but it was widespread and dispersed. all over Greece, Asia Minor and Magna Graecia, that is to say in the south of Italy and Sicily ”, declared Stampolidis, during a tour.
“So it was a notion of Greek culture throughout the Mediterranean and the ancient world,” he continued.
In the first room of the exhibition is a red-figure clay hydria with a representation of Sappho, the archaic Greek poetess, writing one of her poems which can be read under a microscope, so many details are precise.
“If we read Homer and the lyric poetry of the 7th century, it started with outward beauty but slowly – if you read the contextual path of written verses – then you understand it’s not just that,” Stampolidis said.
He then pointed to an ancient vase from Chiusi, Italy, with a depiction of the fictional character Penelope sitting on a stool near a loom, where – as a faithful wife – she was weaving and unraveling her weaving for avoid remarrying. Penelope is not only physically beautiful, but her loyalty and energetic nature contribute to her beauty, Stampolidis explained.
Copyright Paris Tavitian / Museum of Cycladic Art
A piece related to beauty and beautification has as its centerpiece a marble statue of Aphrodite after a bath, drying her hair, dating from the 1st century BCE and created in the Greek city of Rhodes. It is, according to the director, the closest to Praxiteles’ interpretation of the goddess of love and beauty, according to the descriptions.
Next to it is a room with bottles of perfumes and ointments.
“We have very many types of perfume bottles from Antiquity”, explained Ioannis Fappas, curator of the museum, who pointed out one of them which contained rose scent oil and others. which once contained saffron and iris scent oil. oil.
“These three perfume oils were among the most popular perfumes of ancient times,” he said.
Fappas highlighted a striped perfume vase with a rounded middle from Lydia, an Iron Age kingdom in southwest Asia Minor, which housed aromatic bakkaris that Sappho linked to Aphrodite in poems.
Two vases represent themes for the sale of perfume oil.
“Perfumes in ancient times were very, very expensive,” Fappas said.
The ancient Greeks also used ointments and creams, and these were also presented in specially designed jars.
Sometimes the objects in the exhibition appear several times. This is the case, for example, with the gold necklace adorned with lanceolate leaves, giving an effect of feathers, the design of which also appears painted on a bust of a woman in terracotta and decorating a pyxis in black glazed terracotta. This is the only time the three pieces have been shown together.
Earrings, brooches, pins, combs and mirrors are on display in the hairstyles section. In the section devoted to the “kallos of mortals” are examples of ancient graffiti on beautiful people and representations of famous figures of the time – real and divine – such as Alexander the Great, and heroes such as Heracles and Achilles.
“They are described as very beautiful. Besides the beauty of their body and their face, they had beauty in their soul, because they were courageous and wanted to do things for the community, ”said Fappas.
Another major work, from the Archaeological Museum of Eretria and on loan for the first time, is a marble sculpture depicting Theseus, the mythical hero of Athens, abducting Antiope, a legendary queen of the Amazons.
Copyright Paris Tavitian / Museum of Cycladic Art
There is a marble relief depicting Leda’s erotic encounter with Zeus disguised as a swan.
“You can understand that even the gods were drawn to human beauty and wanted to capture it, so that it would be theirs forever,” Stampolidis said.
Other works represent the tastes of archaic and classical kallos.
The exhibition, as a whole, is about understanding beauty.
“Sappho has the best quote on this,” said Stampolidis, who explained that he was asked, “What is beauty? Where can we find it? ‘ She says: “Everything we love”.
“Kallos: The Ultimate Beauty” runs until January 16, 2022.
“We would like this exhibit to go around the world, because in every country on the planet it could resonate strongly, because it is very relevant,” said Agon.
The hope, Marinopoulou said, is that after a person sees the show, “by the time they leave, they will understand that beauty is both inside and out.”
“More than he thought,” said Agon.
“And maybe,” Marinopoulou added, “it makes you feel like you want to be a better person.”
“I also see this as a fantastic way to deepen our own knowledge of beauty,” said Agon, referring to the L’Oréal teams. “It helps us tremendously to understand our mission, which is to bring the best in beauty to everyone in the world.”
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