Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece at the British Museum, London
Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece
May 4, 2023—August 12, 2023
Lead Curator: Dr James Fraser.
Figure 1. Photograph of a 500-400 BCE Achaemenid silver and gold rhyton with forepart of a winged griffin found in Altıntepe, displayed in the Persian section of the exhibition © The Trustees of the British Museum
The definition of luxury has routinely been negotiated in scholarship by highlighting its conceptual multivalence, and explored as an idea contingent on what is expected by a society from material objects that can then enable the identification of those exceeding such expectations. Further, as an idea indulging in excesses, celebrating exclusivity, and instigating the creation of material objects that reject pure functionality that are often acquired under suspect circumstances, luxury also remains politically and morally difficult to navigate. These problems are only exacerbated when luxury is discussed at a time marked by a cost of living crisis and within an institution that has been at the centre of many controversies regarding its collections in the recent past. Understandably then, the British Museum’s ambitious new exhibition, Luxury and Power: Persia to Greece, refrains from adopting a definitive position and focuses instead on posing thought-provoking questions.
Figure 2: Photograph of a 500-330 BCE Achaemenid armlet with leaping lion-griffin terminals from Takht-i Kuwad © The Trustees of the British Museum
Figure 3: Photograph of a c. 470-450 BCE Classical Greek pottery rhyton in the form of a seated sphinx attributed to the Sotades Painter © The Trustees of the British Museum
Figure 4: Photograph of a c. 400-380 BCE Apulian Hydria pottery with red-figure decoration © The Trustees of the British Museum
Figure 5: Visitor looking at the c. 100-30 BCE bronze Satala Aphrodite or Anahita © The Trustees of the British Museum
Figure 6: Installation shot of a 460-450 BCE Classical Greek pottery drinking mug in the form of a boar’s head © The Trustees of the British Museum
Figure 7: The Panagyurishte Treasure – a c.300 BCE Hellenistic gold banqueting set on loan from the National Museum of History, Sofia © National Museum of History, Bulgaria R
Figure 8: Fabric drapes and renders of columns framing the exhibition display © The Trustees of the British Museum
Parshati Dutta is a doctoral candidate at the Department of History of Art, University of York, UK. She has an undergraduate degree in architecture and a postgraduate degree in Architectural Theory and Design. Her thesis examines matronage in Mughal architecture and is funded by the YGRS Overseas PhD Scholarship and the British Institute of Persian Studies.
Grewe, Bernd-Stefan, and Hofmeester, Karin, editor. Luxury in Global Perspective: Objects and Practices, 1600-2000 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 8; Peter McNeil and Giorgio Riello, Luxury: a Rich History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 4.
“Collecting and empire trail,” The British Museum, n.d, accessed Aug 2, 2023, https://www.britishmuseum.org/visit/object-trails/collecting-and-empire-trail