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Installed with the notion of “open storage” in mind, Festina lente offers an unconventional behind-the-scenes opportunity to survey the Greek and Roman holdings in the Davis Museum’s permanent collections. Focused on collecting, conservation, and stewardship, the exhibition invites new research and scholarship regarding a range of objects—some, deeply beloved long-time fixtures in the Davis galleries, and others, hidden from view for decades.
As well, the exhibition and programs illuminate the particular challenges facing museum antiquities collections, including questions of attribution, provenance, and authenticity; the science of investigation; changing strategies and shifting aesthetics in restoration; the function of and framework for managing fragmentary objects; the search for traces in abraded and eroded surfaces; and trends in collecting over time.
Featuring vases and vessels of all sorts and designs, relief portraits and standing figures, mosaics, coins and jewelry, human and animal forms, the scope of the collection reveals tremendous vitality of form and function rendered in glass, terracotta, clay, metal, and stone.
The classical adage, Festina lente, greatly favored by the first Roman emperor, Augustus, seems particularly apt in relation to the collecting and conservation of antiquities—and, to the larger project of museums overall. To “make haste slowly,” is to balance urgency and diligence, risk and caution—a perfect description for the dynamic focus on collecting, art history and archaeology, scientific research and conservation treatment that distinguishes this project.
Curated by Lisa Fischman, Ruth Gordon Shapiro ‘37 Director of the Davis, Festina lente and related programs have been generously supported by Wellesley College Friends of Art.