Abu Dhabi: It is hard to tear oneself away from the limestone sphinx sculpture placed on the top of a column. The eerie rendering of a mythological creature, crafted in Greece between 600 and 500 BCE, marks the narrative of conquests covered in the Civilisations and Empires gallery.
Sphinx, mythological creature, Greece or Italy 600-500 BCE.
At the far end, two statues stand side by side, adorned by immaculately sculpted drapes. On the left is ‘The Orator’, a second century Roman marble sculpture, beside a depiction of Bodhisattva, an intercessor between Buddha and his followers, crafted in the faraway area of modern-day Pakistan. The influence of Greek art, diffused by the conquests of the legendary Alexander the Great, is evident in these two sculptures through the similarly pleated nature of their garments, although one wears a toga and the other an oriental male skirt.
Brooch in the form of an eagle, Italian Peninsula, 450-500 CE, Gold garnet.
A broken bust of Alexander, which shows his beardless face and curly hair, also leads on to a column of other busts, all of leaders who demanded that their feature be styled like the legendary Macedonian ruler who controlled vast territories from Greece to northwestern India.
Man in Toga, Called “The Orator”, Roman Empire, AD100-150 in marble.
Other items in the gallery a pair of beautiful mosaic panels that were used to decorate a Roman villa in the fourth century, and a display of two Phoenician marble sarcophagus lids dating from the 5th century BCE.
Bust of Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, Delos, about 100 BCE, in marble.
The power and majesty of Eastern empires, although not extensively explored in the gallery, are cursorily touched upon. A mesmerising frieze of a Persian archer from about 510 BCE, which once decorated the palace of Persian Achaemenid emperor, Darius, is placed near the entrance. Another glass case showcases a bowl from the Sassanid Empire of Persia, next to a statuette, a watchtower model and a funerary figurine, all made of terracotta during the era of the powerful Han dynasty in third century China.
Persian archer of the Achamenian empire, Iran about 510 BC.
The varied displays in the gallery are a testament to the splendour of these ancient empires, yet one can sense that the collapse of these civilisations could only signal a transition to something more spiritual and stirring.
Timings and entry fee: 10am-8pm on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday; 10am-10pm on Thursday and Friday
Dh30: 13-22 years
Dh30: Education professionals
Free entry: Children under 13. Members of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s Art Club loyalty programme, journalists, visitors with specials needs and their companions
Next: Universal Religions