The Mainstream Media and the “Shocking Bad Art” from Cyprus: 1870s New York Reacts to the Cesnola Collections

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When the Metropolitan Museum of Art first opened the doors of its Fifth Avenue building on March 30, 1880, the majority of the exhibition space was occupied by Cypriot art purchased by the Met’s trustees from Luigi Palma di Cesnola in two lots, one in 1872 and another in 1876. The two collections amounted to around twenty thousand objects, all finds Cesnola had acquired while serving as US Consul on the island from 1865–1876. After the acquisition of the second collection, Cesnola left Cyprus to become the first director of the Metropolitan Museum, a position he held until his death in 1904. New Yorkers in the 1870s were most intrigued by the works of limestone sculptures from the sanctuary at Golgoi. In the 1880s these objects would become embroiled in a scandal because of the claim that Cesnola had performed intentionally misleading restorations, but before that disgrace and through much of the 1870s, New Yorkers were processing the arrival of an enormous volume of ancient Cypriot objects in a relatively short amount of time.

Archaeology, 2101 Archaeology